“You should bear in mind that almost all my documentaries are feature films in disguise. Because I stylize, I invent, there’s a lot of fantasy in it—not for creating a fraud, but exactly the contrary, to create a deeper form of truth, which is not fact-related. Facts hardly ever give you any truth, and that’s a mistake of cinéma vérité, because they always postulate it as if facts would constitute truth. In that case, my answer is that the phone directory of Manhattan is a book of books. Because it has 4 million entries, and they are all factually correct, but it doesn’t illuminate us. You see, I do things for creating moments that illuminate you as an audience, and the same thing happens with feature films as well.”
Werner Herzog (born September 5, 1942)
As he approaches his 90s, Ingmar Bergman is the last survivor of a generation of great European directors who brought to the cinema a new psychological depth and formal daring. This BBC presentation of a documentary on Ingmar Bergman begins with an accurate statement on the Swedish filmmaker. Except for the fact that he passed away in 2007, Bergman was a great director—I’d say one of the greatest—and he brought with his vision and style a filmography that considered not only the human experience but also the cinematic experience. When one visits an Ingmar Bergman film, he or she is getting exactly that, and to add to the beauty of this is that he directed more than forty films in his lifetime. Persona. Wild Strawberries. The Seventh Seal. There is a library of Bergman films to choose from, to fill out days and weeks, and this documentary shows why filling up your time with Bergman cinema is more than just acceptable. Ingmar Bergman is an example of the filmmaker as an artist. He became a leading light in presenting film unselfconsciously as art. From Woody Allen to Andrei Tarkovsky, Bergman’s work has had a profound effect on many people. However, only a privileged few have met and talked at length with the man himself. This documentary represents in many ways that privilege—40 precious minutes with Ingmar Bergman.
How does the Danish society react if a person wants to stay in the country but his motives are primarily aesthetic? The film For Aesthetic Reasons portrays the young Estonian art historian Andres Kurg who goes to Denmark and, at the director’s instigation, turns to all kinds of institutions with an attempt to seek permission to settle down in Denmark because he likes the environment.
»For purely aesthetic reasons«, as he claims.
He loves Danish post-war Modernism and would like to live in a house designed by one of its most prominent architects, Arne Jacobsen, surrounded by the designs of Bang&Oluffsen. While we are guided through some of the significant Modernist buildings by Kurg, we parallelly follow his attempts to get in touch with city officials and the proper authorities to find a solution. As Eastern Europe is still a no-man’s land, the migrant-aesthete from the Baltics tends to arouse suspicion on an ethical level. The only practical advice given, and the only remaining possibility, is what the Lutheran pastor suggests with an apologetic smile hiding his uneasiness, to marry a Danish girl, since families are not taken apart. The film which„bursts upon the stale and stuffy Estonian documentary film scene”(Andres Maimik) is influenced by the filmmaking experience of Dogma 95.
I’m not a journalist. I don’t have a catalogue of questions. I come in and I don’t have any questions at all. You have to assess the situation instantly. You have to find the right tone instantly because you have fifty minutes and that’s that.
Secretary at West German Radio, Cologne
In the photograph, “Country Girls,” 1925, two sturdy blond girls stand stiffly before the camera holding hands and wearing identical dark dresses and watches. It seems safe to assume they are sisters, so closely do they resemble each other in appearance, expression and manner. Indeed, their similarity and closeness is as disquieting as a Diane Arbus photograph, for their dark dresses visually give the impression of one large shape with two heads emerging from it.
The two girls in this photograph face the camera in a vague imitation of traditional posing principles. Their interlocking hands provide the emotional core of the image, compensating for their inability to make eye contact with the camera and with one another.
For the final section of People of the Twentieth Century, in which this portrait is found, Sander photographed “idiots, the sick, the insane, and the dying.” Whether single figures or groups, indoors or out, these “last people” are presented in the same uncompromising way that he approached his other subjects. Remarkably, Sander never let his work devolve into a clinical exercise, but instead imbued it with a sense of engagement with and respect for his subjects. Together the photographs illuminate the cyclical nature of Sander’s project, whereby in dying one returns to the earth and so the cycle begins anew.
“Documentary photography isn’t so much about the fulfillment of aesthetic rules pertaining to outer form and composition as it is about the significance of that which is portrayed.”
“One can snap a shot or take a photograph; “to snap a shot” means reckoning with chance, and “to take a photograph” meaning working with contemplation – that is, to comprehend something, or to bring an idea from a complex to a consummate composition.”