Unlike some artists who cultivate secrecy and privacy, insisting on the inscrutable origins of their work, Bergman is an inveterate commenter on himself and his films. His autobiography is written in his films, and expanded on, explained, and sometimes revised in his numerous writings. BERGMAN ON BERGMAN (1973), a collection of in-depth interviews, was followed by THE MAGIC LANTERN (1987), a richly detailed autobiographical narrative and self-analysis. IMAGES covers much of the same ground as these previous books, but with more candor and less hypocrisy, as he confesses in the opening pages.
As any viewer of his films would expect, Bergman is not easy on himself. There is a great deal of interesting anecdotal material about how he came to become a filmmaker, the formation of the various ensembles of actors and actresses that he is linked with, and so on, but the primary behind-the-scenes characters that he focuses on are the demons that drive his work: nightmarish visions, self-doubts and insecurities, emotional torment, crises of faith, and suicidal longings.
This book is, like a typical Bergman film, strenuous, not only because of the rather harrowing landscape it surveys but also because of its structure. IMAGES jumps back and forth in time with an almost careless discontinuity, and sometimes seems to be little more than a collection of self-quotations, stitching together early notebook and journal entries and later recollections as Bergman reviews over seventy-five years of his life and forty years of filmmaking.
Also like a typical Bergman film, though, the book is bracing as well as harrowing, and memorably affirms two of his most important life-lessons: that one can attach one’s demons to one’s chariot, and that images, “on a few rare occasions, can give me and my fellow beings a few seconds of solace or reflection.”