Book Review: "Sunday's Children" by Ingmar Bergman
4/5 - The second instalment in an amazing autobiographical trilogy
Ingmar Bergman directed one of my favourite films of the last decade. When I was fourteen, I watched “The Seventh Seal” for the first time and, not really understanding it I watched it again. Over the next decade, I watched it some ten to fifteen times and it still has the same impact as it did back then. It tells us that Ingmar Bergman is actually a very good storyteller, if not sometimes a little confusing and philosophically deep. This book also displays the similar aspects of his films in which it has these long moments of internalisation, long moments of introspection and long moments of just nothing physically happening in which the characters are shifted from the outside to the inside. It is something that Ingmar Bergman is very, very good at. But not only that, we get the existential concepts of human nature becoming something physical. Like death as a person in his movie, the book makes physical these strange existential and incomprehensible ideas. I love the way it is written because Ingmar Bergman has the most strange and almost celestial understanding of these concepts. “Sunday’s Children” is an incredible homage to his youth whilst displaying the knowledge he gained in his adulthood.
Here are some quotations that I thought were especially well written and displaying of some of the concepts I had started with here:
“The slaughtering is under way down by the cowshed. The first calf is already lying on the platform with its throat cut and the blood pouring into a tin bowl. Old man Berglund is holding th bowl and whipping the blood. The two younger men have fastened a halter to the other calf. A rope is knotted to the halter to the other calf. A rope is knotted to the halter and the calf is led out into the yard. The farmer has a sledgehammer half behind his back. The three smaller Berglund children are standing timidly around the place of execution. Young Fru Berglund is helping her father-in-law with the newly slaughtered calf. Pu stands in the yard as if turned to stone. He has seen chickens slaughtered, which, whilst still horrible, is quite amusing; once a cockerel flew away and perched on the shed roof, where it sat without its head and flapped its wings for several minutes before crashing down…”
Death again, is made something physical not as a person, but instead as a piece of entertainment for the on-lookers. As if Bergman is trying to make a philosophical point against people who stand by whilst death is happening, especially if it is violent.
“Someone has said that fear makes real which it fears. It’s a good rule and also applies to small children, like Pu for instance. Ever since the previous winter, he has nurtured a recurring anxiety that Father and Mother no longer wanted to be together. This has come about as a result of Pu’s being unwilling witness to a brief physical struggle between his parents. When they discovered they were observed they immediately stopped the scuffle and worried about Pu, who could not stop himself weeping with terror. Father had a scratch down his cheek. Mother’s hair was dishevelled and her lips were trembling, her eyes dark and her nose red, His parents energetically explained that adults could be just as furious with each other as any child. All this talk and explanation made no difference. Pu became more and more frightened as time passed. His fear came gradually and he started paying special attention to his Mother and Father. He saw that sometimes they took on particular faces and particular voices…”
Even when people are fighting and arguing, Bergman talks of people like products of their environments and humanity. It’s like there is something that they intrinsically cannot change about themselves - their fright, their feelings etc. whilst there are things where they are consciously putting on a face to do: hate each other, argue and fight with each other. I love the fact that Ingmar Bergman is always able to get into the simplest idea of the emotion and then expand it into all the philosophical and psychological realms it inhabits throughout the human experience.