Depth of Field: Harriet Andersson

Film lovers of the world rarely get to bask in the glow of first-hand recollections from a long time principal performer of one of world cinema’s treasured directors. Arriving at the 56th annual Berlinale International Film Festival, it was immensely pleasing to see that master Swedish director Ingmar Bergman’s legendary performer Harriet Andersson appearing. She was there to introduce a restored print of Bergman’s 1952 classic Sommaren mit Monika (The Summer with Monika), as well as taking part in a panel discussion on women in film.

On the first night of the festival, Andersson introduced a print of Bergman's 1952 work, an adaptation that launched her acting career and made her an international sex symbol. Andersson would later become the object of carnal inspiration for filmmakers such as Jean Luc Godard and Woody Allen, both of whom cite Andersson’s sly, raw performance as a seminal growing up experience. This qualified Andersson to be part of the “Traumfrauen” (dream girls) series of the festival, to which she jokingly claimed was quite impossible as she simply didn't enjoy getting up at 4 or 5 AM to sit in the make up and hairdresser's chairs like the other women included (among them Ingrid Bergman, Ava Gardener and Audrey Hepburn). “Too much work to look like that”, she said modestly, making it quite clear that she started her career without the intention of being a style icon.

Monika is a very basic story about a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who takes up with a nice guy. Of course he doesn’t see how immature and manipulative she really is. Though obviously still a fledgling auteur at the time, Bergman, brings many small flourishes to the film that would become a staple of his later works. Starting with his stark, almost brutal photography of the natural elements (such as the sea) and continuing onto his quite renowned confrontational "close-up" technique, Monika showed a stylistic flair that Bergman would improve and perfect in his subsequent years. Andersson discussed the importance of this film, how it redefining Sweden in the world’s eyes from a medieval place filled with Vikings and ice to a sexy, lush paradise where beautiful landscapes were as abundant as the beautiful Swedes.

The director and actress embarked on a short-lived sexual affair following the filming, but Andersson claimed the infamous director “terrified” her, despite also teaching her more than anyone in her entire career. Andersson also noted that he was “evil” and liked to “beat” performances out of actors, which brought the house down with laughter. She also spoke about her infamous nude scenes, which were initially cut from the original American release (they were later restored). She dismissed the idea that nudity should be sensational, calling the scenes natural, not in any way obscene, jokingly telling the capacity crowd to "enjoy my boobs".

Unfortunately, “the boobs” were about the only things that were enjoyable about this dry, dated examination of Swedish youth culture. Without having Andersson’s essential commentary prior to the screening, it is likely the audience would have either fallen asleep or perhaps left the theater. The spark of a fruitful artistic collaboration was apparent, though excruciating to sit through in this fledgling stage.

The following night, on the eve of her 75th birthday, Andersson, looking sprightly in flashy gold sneakers and fur, sat down with a devoted crowd at the Berlin Film Museum to talk about her career, her affiliation with Bergman and what she has learned as an actress.

End of Part 1

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.