Wednesday, February 1, 2012
There are five or six films in the history of the cinema which one wants to review simply by saying, 'It is the most beautiful of films.' Because there can be no higher praise ... I love Summer Interlude.
-Jean Luc Godard, Cahiers du Cinéma, July 1958.
I was reading this article on Lana Del Rey yesterday (which you should absolutely go and read now). And then it hit me why I love Ingmar Bergman's film, Summer Interlude (1951). I often come to an appreciation of things in a roundabout way, and from strange sources. The author of the article on Del Ray, Lindsay Zoladz, expresses what I essentially dislike about her form of music and 'style': a lack of living, substance, meaning and vulnerability. It is, to borrow from her own album title, totally 'dead'.
I don't know about you, but I've been noticing this oh-so-cool 'ironic' slant being used in various art forms: music, literature, film, and so on. Something which is totally vacuous and vapid has a self-conscious 'ironic' tag attached to it, and suddenly we're supposed to appreciate it because the artist/musician is aware of their own meaninglessness. And when you add the extra descriptive word of 'postmodernist' irony, well then, it must be cool.
I just don't buy it, I need something else, something that tries to say something new or just anything at all, to appreciate a song, a style, a piece of work. I don't particularly like the bodily scrutiny which Del Ray has been subjected to as I think it's obviously sexist in tone. But I do agree with those critics who examine her music and find something missing. That missing element for me is primarily vulnerability.
What does this have to do with the film, Summer Interlude? Well, plenty actually. This is a film that is all about learning to be vulnerable. When I first saw it, I was seduced by its outward beauty. Its style and its clever thematic uses of the black and white aesthetic are things which I blogged about in my analysis of the film for Behind Ballet. But now I'm not so sure this is the most interesting thing about the film. I think Bergman's genius instead lies in his ability to skillfully merge this style with something profoundly human: the need to be raw, unprotected by a beautiful coolness, to be, as I said, vulnerable. Because that's what ultimately brings people together.
In Bergman's film of a cool ballerina whose perfect exterior is shattered by a tale of thwarted love, you'll find an affirmation of life as a precarious, but worthy state. In Del Ray's music, I find an affirmation of death as a cool exterior. And I will always favour a mature idealism over a twee cynicism.