Wednesday, August 08, 2007


I didn't have much to say about the death of Ingmar Bergman, but I do want to note an interesting CD that was released a few years ago (and is technically out of print, but used copies are still available) of Erik Nordgren's musical scores for Bergman's early films. Nordgren scored almost all of Bergman's movies through the early '60s, until, as this website explains, Bergman decided he didn't want to commission new music for his movies any more. An un-charitable interpretation is that Bergman decided that no living composer was good enough for him; a more charitable interpretation is that he just felt uncomfortable with using music that wasn't a real work of art in itself -- and the whole point of movie music is that it isn't supposed to stand on its own, or if it does, it does so almost by accident. For the rest of his career, he either did scenes with no music at all or with pre-existing recordings of classical works like Bach's cello suites (in Through a Glass Darkly).

Given that most of my favorite Bergman movies are the earlier ones -- up to and including The Virgin Spring -- I'm not sure if the presence of real musical scores has something to do with that. I do think that maybe the musical scoring helped make his earlier movies a little more involving. Hearing a known piece of music -- whether it's classical music or (in today's movies) a pop song -- sort of takes you out of the movie by referring back to a separate work of art. A musical score created for the movie is fully a part of that movie, and doesn't distract you from getting lost in the story.

No comments: