Monday, 31 March 2008

Curtain, please!

I don't know whether the following was really a "time slip" (although I suspect it was), but it's certainly interesting, especially because the person who related it - on camera - was world-famous (and not only by his work): Ingmar Bergman, the legendary film director.

Bergman loved the theatre, film-making - and ladies. (These are, in fact, the secondary reason for his worldwide reputation.) And, as difficult as he could be, he seems to have been a magnet for talented women. Especially actresses. (Think Liv Ullmann, a wonderful actress and a beautiful woman, without going any further.)

Between films, Bergman spent a lot of time in and around theaters, especially the Swedish Royal Theatre in Stockholm. It is, as old theatres usually are, a rather grand and majestic building, with a long history. Many lives, past and present, are intertwined with it.

And it was there that Bergman met a lady like no other.

One day, when he was - alone - in one of the galleries that run through the venerable building, an elegant lady strolled by him, clad in a fashionable gray dress.
She didn't as much as blink at Bergman.

But Bergman was impressed, and not only by her elegantly cool demeanour. He had recognised her from the many pictures of her he had seen: it was Harriet Bosse, a famous Norwegian-born Swedish actress. Not the least among the many achievements that made her reputation was her short and tempestuous marriage to August Strindberg, the famous playwright.

Yes, Bergman was impressed, especially because her impromptu appearance from behind him was matched by an equally dramatic exit: as she reached a certain marble column, he saw her disappear into thin air, as silently and unobtrusively as she had appeared.

It had been many years since Harriet Bosse looked as she did when she whiffed past Bergman that day. She had been born in 1878, married Strindberg in 1901, divorced him in 1904, and ended her long and fruitful life in November 1961 - years before her airy "meeting" with Bergman.

By the appearance of this encounter, one is tempted to say that the venerable walls of the theatre may have given a new meaning to the old phrase: "... but her spirit lives on".

Was she a "ghost"?

What is a ghost, anyway?

Bergman definitely saw her; but she didn't appear to have noticed him at all.

Was her image a lingering remnant of "energy" of an evening long one - perhaps not even memorable at all, as far as Harriet was concerned?

Whatever it was, you gotta love Bergman's reaction. He told that story to Erland Josephson, a good friend and a terrific actor: "... And we decided, Erland and I, that after we die we are going to haunt that theatre, too." :)

Bergman died last July.
Erland Josephson is, thankfully for us, still alive.

And, personally, I think "haunting" is just a terribly misinterpreted category of being there.

Still, if you happen to see Bergman wandering around - he is quite tall and walks fast, you can't miss him - give me a call. ;)

P.S. (totally and shamelessly unrelated trivia):

I just discovered that Bosse's and Strindberg's daughter, Anne Marie, actually lived longer than the long-lived Bergman himself! He died on July 30th, she died on August 17th of 2007... only, she had been born in March 1902. In fact, she seems to have been the oldest living Swede.

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