Lindu Pindu's Reviews > The Magic Lantern

The Magic Lantern by Ingmar Bergman
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it was ok
bookshelves: film, memoirs-biographies
Recommended for: no.

I don't know if I was upset at myself or Bergman for being so disappointed with this memoir. I expected to read more about his actual artistic output, a la Tarkovsky's Sculpting in Time.
What's most infuriating I realise now after having finished the book: he wants to seem very honest and open in his writing, making reference to this childhood ordeal or that crumbling personal relationship, but I perceive no such openness as a reader, only an attempt at it. It could be the translation. Then again, it might just be that I have to forget most of what I've read about his personal life and get on with it, watch his films without the background that I never really wanted.

I'm not against neurotic people who have been deprived of parental love. But Bergman's failures in life might have been from living his true life in film, and that's where you ought to go looking for his memoirs. He was a bastard to lots of people in his life, swinging between his own issues: self-loathing and self-congratulating. But he was wonderful to audiences everywhere. But what you capture with light cannot, for the most part, be done with a pen (Tarkovsky somehow managed both).

The good parts in the book are when he doesn't focus on himself: the bit about his girlfriend's piano teacher, and her terrible wartime experience; also one of the last chapters, revolving around his father. I'd have been better off re-reading Sculpting in Time.
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Reading Progress

June 1, 2010 – Shelved
January 14, 2012 – Started Reading
January 16, 2012 –
page 40
12.74% "For now it feels like I'm watching Fanny and Alexander... not a bad thing at all."
January 18, 2012 –
page 110
35.03%
January 19, 2012 –
page 128
40.76% "I feel like giving up on it. There's no urge in me to read further, but I keep looking for details I can like enough to buoy me to the end."
January 21, 2012 –
page 195
62.1% "Now reached his 3rd or 4th wife, I'm starting to lose count."
January 22, 2012 –
page 250
79.62%
January 22, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by Declan (new)

Declan As W. B. Yeats said: "The intellect of man is forced to choose perfection of the life, or of the work." I'm sure it doesn't always have to be so, but it does seem to be the case most of the time.


Lindu Pindu Especially with neurotic Western artists.


Alexander I think this is a quite common critique for this book, so probably not just the translation. Especially the second part about not being as honest as it's portrayed to be.

Personally I liked it, though his language use (at least in Swedish) did become a little tiresome after a while. If you're looking for something more about his artistic life maybe you'd be better of reading either Bilder (though that's VERY autobiographic too and probably not what you're looking for artistic-wise either) or perhaps one of the many analysis written on his work.

If you want a good autobiographic look I'd recommend to be on the look-out for Mikael Timm's biography. I'm pretty sure it's only out in Swedish atm, but it was quite popular when it came out and very well written, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a translation quite soon. :-)


Lindu Pindu I can handle written Swedish with a dictionary on hand so I'll take a gander at Google Books. Thanks for the recs!


Alexander Woah, really? Have you studied Swedish?


Lindu Pindu Norwegian and Icelandic, just to get a taste. And the company of kids in Denmark helped also. The pronunciation is impossible to me (Danish, I mean), but Norwegian and Swedish I am fond of.


Alexander Haha, danish pronunciation is awful for swedes too. It's just recently I've stopped watching norweigan and danish stuff with subtitles (it's possible without for any swede, but more convenient to have them on). Also put some danish and norweigan books on my list. :-)

Icelandic is really cool. I was going to learn it at some point but figured I'll better gear all my language studies to a single language (japanese).


message 8: by PGR (new)

PGR Nair Hi Lindu

I am an unabashed admirer of Bergman. I haven't read this book. May be it lacks literary merit, as you say (versus Tarakovsky). I think we should separate the 'the dancer from the dance' as far as creative works are concerned. I love most of his movies and perhaps I rank 'Wild Strawberries' as one of the ten greatest movies ever produced on celluloid. Other movies such as 'Silence', Passion of Anna and 'Hour of the wolf' are great indeed...PGR


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