Fascinating news — Ingmar Bergman’s niece has uncovered evidence that he was not biologically related to the woman who raised him. Let’s assume this is true — DNA samples were taken from envelopes old Ingmar had mailed, so as long as he did his own envelope-licking, the case seems airtight. If Ingmar did employ an underling to do his epistolary tongue-work, can I suggest that the flunky concerned be know henceforth as “the Seventh Seal”? But if such a person existed, all the DNA evidence shows is that Ingmar’s hired tongue wasn’t related to Ingmar’s mother. Which would have been unlikely anyhow.

The theory put forward by Ingmar’s niece is that possibly his mother’s natural child was stillborn and the infant Ingmar was shunted in as body double, the way you switch goldfish on a small child when the original goes belly up. It could have happened that way. Further investigation is anticipated.

Had Ingmar stayed with his own parents, he could have avoided the awkwardness of sounding confusingly similar to Ingrid Bergman, which would have been a handicap anywhere but Sweden, where everybody seems to have terribly similar, generic, Swedish names.

A Facebook commenter immediately announced, facetiously, “This explains his entire body of work!” but you know, in a way IT DOES. Bergman seems to have always felt somewhat distant from his parents. As a child he was punished for telling schoolmates that his parents had sold him to a circus. He always felt he should have been rewarded for showing such imagination. The whole incident points to a sensation of not belonging.

We can at least agree that the directly autobiographical aspects of Bergman’s filmmaking, such as FANNY AND ALEXANDER, can be said to bear the stamp of this emotional dislocation. Children can sense this stuff.

Meanwhile, here is Norma Shearer starring in the 1930s MGM version of PERSONA ~

8 Responses to “Persona”

  1. david wingrove Says:

    Come to think of it, PERSONA and MARIE ANTOINETTE would make an amazing double bill.

    And which one would you rather be shipwrecked with for repeated viewings on a desert island? Go on, tell the truth…

  2. Had Ingmar known he would have ended up the same way — bitter, sour and hateful with a soupcon of sentimentality (ie. Fanny and Alexander)

    He’s remindful of someone who’s otherwise stylistically and sexually quite different from him –Edward Albee. Albee discovered that he wasn’t adopted but BOUGHT.

    He was a “Black Market Baby’ and the purchase price was $310.00

    Few of us know “what we’re worth.” Edward Albee knows he’s worth exactly $310.00. And that’s why so many of his plays are about families: The American Dream, A Delicate Balance, The Play About the Baby, Three Tall Women and of course Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

    The imaginary son in that classic represents George and Martha’s unwillingness to cough up the $310.00

  3. Well, he was worth $310 as a baby, but he may have appreciated or depreciated since.

    Chuck Jones’ brother was rejected for a movie role while still in diapers. Jones said he found it fascinating that you could be a failure as a baby.

    I agree that knowing of his secret adoption wouldn’t necessarily have changed Bergman. But being raised by his own parents surely would’ve.

  4. Arthur S Says:

    Weirdly enough Carl Dreyer, fellow Scandinavian master, had a childhood kind of like that. His birth mother was poor, sent him to live with the Dreyers(who he hated but after whom he was named) and died an awful death and as per Jonathan Rosenbaum, her tragedy formed the main core in all his films on women as tragic figures.

    Bergman’s feelings towards family is at the core of his work. Especially SARABAND his final masterpiece which is all about “not knowing your children”.

  5. Christopher Says:

    “great norma shearer’s Jools!!

  6. I didn’t know the Dreyer connection, that’s fascinating.

    Just saw The Stolen Jools. What that film needs is a bit of Swedish gloom (it has everything else). Maybe El Brendel could have provided it.

  7. Christopher Says:

    (the guilty upward glance)””

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