Ingmar Bergman Francois Truffaut - Essay

Francois Truffaut

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

For me, the lesson that Bergman gives us hinges on three points: liberation of dialogue, a radical cleansing of image, and absolute primacy granted to the human face.

Liberation of dialogue. The text of a film is not a piece of literature, but simply honest speech, things said and things not said, confessions and confidences. We could have learned this lesson from Jean Renoir but, strangely, it has been more clearly revealed through a language that is foreign to us and cinematographically pure. And that since Illicit Interlude, the film of our holidays, of our twenty years, of our first loves.

Cleansing of image. There are filmmakers who allow chance in their images, the sun, passers-by or bicycles (Rossellini, Lelouch, Huston), and there are those who strive to control every square centimetre of the screen (Eisenstein, Lang, Hitchcock). Bergman began like the first group and then switched allegiances; in his recent films you come across not one passer-by, your attention is not once drawn by a useless object in the decor, nor by a bird in the garden. There is nothing on the white canvas but that which Bergman (anti-pictorial like all real filmmakers) has wanted to put there.

As for the human face, no one has come as near to it as Bergman. In his recent films, there are only mouths that speak, ears that listen, eyes that express curiosity, hunger or panic….

Bergman's most maligned film is called All These Women and it is ironic if one realises that the best of his work has consisted precisely in revealing the often-untapped genius in each of a number of women that have chosen the craft of acting…. They are neither chicks, nor broads, nor dames, but women, real women. Bergman films the expressions of these women—expressions more and more intense in harshness or in suffering—and the results are admirable films as simple as bonjour. But then, is bonjour simple for everyone?

François Truffaut, "The Lesson of Ingmar Bergman," in Take One (copyright © 1972 by Unicorn Publishing Corp.), Vol. 3, No. 10, March-April, 1972, p. 40.