Kirsten Tan on the Swedish Film Festival: "If a film god exists, I believe it would be Ingmar Bergman"
There's hardly an interview on filmmaker Kirsten Tan without a mention of the late Ingmar Bergman. Countlessly quoted, Bergman's been an iconic influence to filmmakers both seasoned and up-and-coming, including the likes of Federico Fellini, Francis Ford Coppola and Singapore's own Tan, whose first full-length feature Pop Aye received the Sundance nod of approval last year. It's only natural, then, for the Swedish Embassy to rope in Tan to handpick eight films — including Marie Nyreröd's documentary, Bergman Island — to mark the 100-year anniversary of Bergman's birth. Read more of Tan's insights into the Swedish filmmaker's breadth of work below.
On how she first discovered Ingmar Bergman:
"It began one day in a library when I chanced upon a videotape of The Seventh Seal, in which a man plays a game of chess with Death himself. I was not even aware of how deep and wide Bergman's influence was. So began an intense month where I watched nothing but Bergman movies borrowed out of a university library."
On programming films for the Swedish Embassy's Bergman Centennial Retrospective:
"I was invited to program and curate the Bergman Centennial Retrospective when the Swedish Embassy came across interviews of mine, in which I mentioned Ingmar Bergman as a formative inspiration in my journey as a filmmaker. I have tried to programme work that is representative of each of his epochs. They are not strictly delineated, but one should be able to divide them into his early work (Summer With Monika); his classical period, or, the works he is best known for (Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal); his later portfolio, with more attention paid to form (Persona, Cries and Whispers); and his final chamber dramas (Autumn Sonata, Fanny and Alexander)."
On what touches Tan the most about Bergman:
"What is most touching about Bergman to me is that accomplished as he was, he remained curious and humble about the form to his very last day. He was always pushing boundaries with his work, and yet always had a laser sharp focus on the pulse of humanity's fundamental questions."
On Bergman's common themes in his work:
"There's much pleasure to be had in watching the different treatments of common themes recurring through Bergman's work: Existential inquiry, the complexity of female inferiority, the intimate cruelty of familial relations, and also to watch his core ensemble of actresses (Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson, Harriet Andersson, Ingrid Thulin) in divergent, defining roles."
On Bergman as one of Tan's influences in filmmaking now:
"When I am asked who my influences are, one of the creators I often find myself mentioning is Ingmar Bergman. His films have seared themselves upon my person, so much so that it's hard to say, in practice, exactly how I think he has been a guiding light. Watching his films provides the dual pleasure of understanding cinema and life itself. If a film god exists, I humbly believe it would be Ingmar Bergman."