Jörn Donner on Ingmar Bergman on Life and Work

The Swedish Embassy was showing Jörn Donner's Om liv och arbete (On Life and Work) that was made in 1998 for the German/French TV station ARTE - with Donner himself in attendance to answer questions afterwards.

I love having the guys there to ask them questions about the production. The film has Donner asking Bergman questions and Bergman explaining and telling stories and being mischievous and being sad and thoughtful and mostly not being his normal ego-centric, overbearing self. Bergman comes across as a charming old gentleman and Donner as a much younger intellectual asking tough questions of the old guy. The film gives the illusion of this being an afternoon's chat.

Actually it was filmed over a 3-day period in the studio in Stockholm, said the shockingly old and thin man who did, actually, bear a resemblance to Donner. The IMDB shows him to be 74, just 15 years younger than Bergman. The cultural attaché for Sweden asked some questions, then the mike was opened - and of course, no one dared to ask, so I (as always) asked the question that had been building in my mind: what exactly was their relationship? Donner danced around this a bit, but settled on "good friend", they knew each other for 50 years. But he was closer to Michaelango Antonioni, who died the same day as Bergman.

And that was the questions, so we went to get some nice wine served upstairs. Donner did come up, so I went over to listen in some more and maybe get in another question or too. He spoke about producing "Fanny & Alexander" and about his book "Report from Berlin" which was published in 1958 and is apparently to be reprint next year, 50 years later, with a new chapter from him. And about some guys sitting on film material he wants to use and this and that and that other stuff and all about him and I thought: Who is he to be calling Bergman egocentric? He is just as much himself. The sparks must have flown when they had a disagreement!

An enjoyable evening, perhaps only marred by the embassy people forgetting to turn on the subtitles and in the ensuing commotion (I had no problem with the Swedish, but apparently many others did) they had to turn off the film, find the menu for the subtitles, and restart the film. Why don't people do a rehearsal for things like this?

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