Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullman in Bergman's war drama Shame .
Encounters with Noise in the Dark
#3 Robert Bresson
I'd rather people feel a film before understanding it [R. Bresson]
Robert Bresson operated in a cinematographic world of his own making. He said in a 1960 interview: “I’m trying to speak cinema in a language all its own”. For over 30-years he occupied a unique place in world cinema, boldly defying the conventions of modern filmmaking. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his widely-documented approach to working with actors, or rather ‘models’ as he later described them. Rejecting the standard style of dramatic, projected performance that he saw cinema had mistakenly inherited from the theatre world (“I refuse to get dragged into making filmed theatre”), Bresson favoured an approach to working with actors aimed at tapping into their own particular inner world. He cast non-professional actors (“less self-conscious, more naive, more straight-forward”) and, through controlled improvisation and repetitive takes, attempted to tease out a naturalism of performance that radically departed from the style common in mainstream film. Bresson’s oeuvre remains to this day utterly unique; a language spoken by him alone.
His work is the very definition of precision. You get the sense watching his films that every cut, every gesture, every sound is full of absolute intention. Each and every element of the audiovisual experience feels precisely placed - what he wants us to look at or listen to. We pour similar plaudits on other filmmakers who command their own particular language, but in Bresson this clarity of precision, this intention feels radically focused; a style of filmmaking concerned strictly with the essentials. Perhaps it’s this austere compactness of expression that leads even the most ardent cinephile to feel a certain discomfort with his work....
Read more here.
Image: Robert Bresson at Cannes, 1962 (Photo by Jaakko Tervasmäki/Courtesy of NYRB Classics)
Time as container for sound; the emergence of an audible world and the invitation to attend to it. Time articulated through what is seen and subsequently felt; the framing, composition and movement of the camera.
Encounters with Noise in the Dark
#2 Ingmar Bergman
Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls. [The Magic Lantern, 1988]
Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to revisit a number of Bergman films on the big screen. These have been included in the extensive Ingmar Bergman retrospective currently taking place at BFI Southbank in London, part of the worldwide centenary celebrations of the Swedish director. My cinema outings have including Persona , Hour of the Wolf , Cries and Whispers , Fanny and Alexander  as well as lesser known television works like Scenes from a Marriage  and Face to Face . These experiences have confirmed to me Bergman’s status as one of the greatest artists of the last century. I consider the depth of his probing examination into human psychology to be on a par with some of the greatest writers and thinkers of the past 200-years; a hugely significant, timeless body of work that offers insight, hope and ultimately guidance in these divisive times.
In the realm of all things sound and music, it is Bergman's films of the 1960s and 1970s that most interest me. A period marked by an intriging absence of conventional score. Gone are the orchestral strings of the earlier period. In their place emerges a more fragmented, modernist sound. Dynamic and atmospheric, the music of this period shifts between a sense of quiet atmosphere and violent atonal drama. This change in musical language, its subtle hues of expression, for me makes sense given the increasing intensity of psychological drama developing in Bergman's work. While films like Persona  and Hour of the Wolf  employ a bold contemporary sound, works scattered throughout this period tend to make sparing use of musical accompaniment, if at all. Instead what we hear are soundtracks composed almost entirely of location sound and studio sound effects.
The effect of less music significantly alters the way we attend to the films. I believe it pulls us closer to the actuality of the drama, re-enforcing the tactile presence of the world. Bergman time and again demonstrates his mastery of the close-up, not only with what we see (the details of the human face) but also with what we hear (the sounds of the body). At the same time a new layer of environmental sound is free to be heard. A character in its own right, these worldly sounds strengthen the atmosphere and tone of the film helping to situate the story in a specific time and place. In this way a kind of Bergman-esque soundtrack emerges consisting of particular sounds and sonic ideas identifiable in a number of his films from this period. Owe Svensson, sound supervisor on much of Bergman's work of the 1970s and 80s, would later go on to achieve the apotheosis of this cinematic expression in Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice . A soundtrack of precisely orchestrated noises and diegetic music, lingering between different planes of reality.
For further information see The Bergman Suite page.
Film images: Face to Face , Cries and Whispers . Hour of the Wolf 
Tate Modern, Starr Cinema, Feb 7th
Ben Russell's latest film Good Luck  is a deeply immersive audiovisual trip. A quasi-documentary on the horrors and environmental destruction of the mining process, this piece demands a big-screen experience to fully appreciate the totality of it's physical audiovisual force. Sensory overload for a distracted age.
The Psychedelic: An understanding of the self through a subjective experience.
The Ethnographic: An understanding of the self through an objective record of someone that is not the self.
My particular interest in Subject comes out of an interest in trance which I connect through noise music or experimental music but also Christian Ska bands and laying-on of hands or in different contexts we have something like the whirling dervishes, Indonesian self-flagellating rituals, the Yanomami Indians who use hallucinogenic snuff to produce shamanic rituals [...] this idea of the trance ritual is something we find across the world; its incarnation is specific to culture but its manifestation is universal.
- Ben Russell [Sonic Acts Feb 2017, Source here].
An atmosphere of sound and silence: Ingmar Bergman's Cries and Whispers .
- "Anna...do you hear?"
- "I only hear the wind and the clocks ticking."
- "No, it's something else."
- "I don't hear anything else."
The year ends with the completion of my final collection of electronic music - Systema Naturae - comprising of tracks from the past few years since returning to the UK. The three-part eponymous piece builds on ideas drawn from the Otoplexus project that was originally conceived in Tokyo around 2011-2012. Lynch Suite emerges out of time at film school while the final track The Enframing is a nod to my continuing interest in the writings of Martin Heidegger.
This collection is dedicated to two giants of electronic sound: Iannis Xenakis & Bernard Parmengiani.
Radio Bach: Ingrid Thulin as Ester in Bergman's Silence .
"Listen...I know you are police reporters and you hear this all day long, but I want you to listen with conscience not just your ears." - John McIntire in The Asphalt Jungle .
Trädgårdsgatan, was the epitome of security and magic: the numerous clocks measuring the time, the sunlight wandering across the infinte green of the carpets, the fires fragrant in the tiled stoves, the chimney pipe roaring and the little stove-doors tinkling. Down in the street, a sleigh with its jingling bells sometimes passed, the cathedral bells rang for divine service or a fuuneral and, morning and evening, the delicate and distant Gunilla bell could be heard. [The Magic Latern, p.19]
2018 marks what would have been Ingmar Bergman's 100th Birthday. The Bergman Suite is a tribute to the great director. An insight into his life and work through sound. More information here.