Max von Sydow remembers his relationship with director Ingmar Bergman

Posted by · 7:55 am · December 14th, 2011

Somehow the embargo on “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” ended up extending at the last minute to the post-screening Q&A that accompanied last week’s screening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a first, as far as I can recall. I couldn’t even pass along this nugget, completely unrelated to the film.

Bizarre, I know, but I’ll dig it up for you now in any case. I figure some comments made by Max von Sydow will be of some interest to cinephiles.

The line-up consisted of stars von Sydow, Thomas Horn and Sandra Bullock, as well as director Stephen Daldry and screenwriter Eric Roth. Daldry commandeered the Q&A from moderator Pete Hammond for a bit at one point and, amid discussion about where each of them were on 9/11 and considerations of grieving (ugh), he asked von Sydow about how he was able to handle the loss of long-time collaborator, mentor and friend, director Ingmar Bergman, in 2007.

Bergman, of course, directed von Sydow in a number of films, including “Wild Strawberries,” “The Virgin Spring” and a personal favorite, “The Seventh Seal.” They are rather inseparable in cinema history, one of the great tandems of all time.

Here is what the actor had to say after some deep consideration:

“I don’t know if I can talk about this, but we were personal friends for many years and worked through I don’t know how many films and theater plays together. All of these, of course, are very emotional procedures and it’s a very emotional period. We also had a similar background. His parents, my parents were probably of the same school and certain morals and religions, etc., and social habits. We understood each other. Whatever good has happened to me in my life regarding film and theater, my thanks go to him.

Von Sydow stars in the new film as a mute older gentleman who figures mysteriously into the main character’s journey. I initially expected him to blow into the season and become an instant frontrunner, but the film betrays him. He just isn’t given enough time and his reconciliation with the main character is mismanaged. The BFCA, despite being quite kind to the film, didn’t nominate him, while the Screen Actors Guild (which saw the film, but too late to really digest, one imagines) snubbed the film entirely.

I had the pleasure of meeting von Sydow before the screening. I kind of just looked up and there he was. And I’ll tell you, there are few hands I shake that leave me trembling, but this was one of them. The freakin’ Exorcist? You kidding me? Lovely to have made his acquaintance. I wish he was given more of an opportunity in the new film.

“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” opens in theaters nationwide Sunday, December 25.

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