The first time I saw an Ingmar Bergman movie, I was in college. I remember sitting on the steps outside the big theater building before the movie started. I was with my friend Charlotte. It being the first days of September, the light reached well into nighttime, and it was warm and pleasant outside. We talked while we waited for the doors to open. I looked up, straight up and saw a flock of birds overhead. I tilted my head back and saw the top of the theater building, a huge concrete slab of a building, at the top of my vision. The birds appeared to come out of it; a bird explosion. The birds kept coming long after I expected to see an end of the group. I thought the flock would flock out, but there were hundreds of birds. After what may have been a whole minute of birds, we finally saw the end of the flock. It was an amazing moment. Then we went inside and saw The Seventh Seal.
There were four reels (I think) of film. The reason we noticed was because the projector couldn’t handle more than one reel at a time, so every twenty minutes or so they had to change the reels manually. The print was worn, too, making the black and white images seem even more distant. The movie takes place during the Crusades and the Black Death, and I felt as though they had filmed the movie during that time – that’s how ancient it felt. Coupled with that was the tone and story of the film, the composition of each shot; it all felt out of time. Was I the only one who laughed at the man who agreed to play chess with Death, then tried to cheat and extend the game as long as he could? Even in a somber movie, there were moments of hilarity.
For people like Bergman, movies are important because of the stories they tell. I admire that, and I am glad he was able to tell so many. Some people talk about why it’s important to tell stories. Bergman didn’t talk about why: he showed us.