Monday, May 16, 2011

Ingmar Bergman for children

Swedish director Ingmar Bergman created a large body of work spanning half a century and largely regarded as influential and profound. The stories usually go on the subject of good and evil with metaphors and the notions of comedy, happy endings or frivolity are foreign concepts.

Indeed those are complicated movies, the complete opposite to a summer blockbuster if there ever was one.

For my 9th birthday, my best friend gave me a book by Swedish writer Maria Gripe. The Glassblower Children, I think it was. Or maybe Josephine and Hugo, two books related. Whichever it was, I loved it and kept seeking and reading her books. Some of my friends also liked her books and we had some sort of informal book club.

Most of Gripe's book were the equivalent of Bergman for kids. They were metaphors of life and death, good and evil, and they did play games with my mind. I didn't know if grownup people got to be that complicated (first I thought no, then yes), and if everybody spoke that way (no, everybody speaks differently). Along with unhealthy doses of early R.E.M. they were the key to my moody teenager musings on self discovery and self forging.

I always fell short of what I thought I could be, judging by those larger than life characters.

Years later I'm reading Maria Gripe's books again and I can't find what was so enticing of that foreign culture to my childhood mind - language, religion, weather, celebrations, everything was different and brought no explanatory notes. They even sound dated (not that there's anything wrong with that), but that might be just a trick because of the time since I first read them.

Maybe it's because they're not exactly books for children and the grown up me is just warming up to them. Maybe it's because they led me to much introspection and I rather be frivolous and superficial. Maybe it's because, sad as it is, I don't understand them anymore.


Picture by Harald Gripe, from here

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