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Beyond Bergman with Monica Engdahl



The Berkeley Circle’s Swedish cinema cycle began with Monica Engdahl telling us about the Stockholm University of the Arts where she is Director of Communications. Although she began with only a few words on Ingmar Bergman, they were enough to suggest that he would dominate the Berkeley’s three-session perusal of the Swedish screen. Engdahl, born in another generation, felt his presence personally. She met the great director, lived herself in places that marked his life and, to top it off, got married on the day he died. Our appetites were whet for the Feb. 25th meeting that will tackle Bergman's films head on and that of Feb. 27 that will have a close look at Gotland, the Baltic island where, like Prospero, he conjured his creative magic. The Berkeley’s is a modest contribution to the 100th anniversary of Bergman’s birth at Uppsala on the 14th of July 1918.


Engdahl’s evocation of the Stockholm University of the Arts struck us dwellers in Europe’s South as a show of magic too. Uniarts forms students not only in film but in the whole range of the performing arts, circus, dance, media and opera. Its emphasis is on research rather than the lecture platform, its classes small and intimate, its tuition, true to the spirit of Swedish social democracy, gloriously free. While the sharpening of skills remains paramount, the range of the offerings makes of Uniarts a crossroad where artistic practices meet in a mutually enriching way that results in surprising trans-disciplinary projects, regularly involving risk and always turned toward the future of a society ever on the move. A current seminar suggests the reach of Uniarts’ interests. Members of Russia’s Pussy Riot are participating in ‘Can art save the world—is activism the answer?’


Uniarts' films continue to garner prizes around the world. The latest, “Get Ready with Me,” won a Gold Award at the 45th Student Academy Awards ceremony held in October 2018 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Engdahl treated us to a viewing of the prizewinner for the Best student short at the Aspen Shortfest 2017 and a raft of other awards. ‘Skolstartssorg’, ‘Schoolyard Blues’ directed by Maria Eriksson tells the story of a troubled preteen giving man-to-man instruction to prepare his younger brother for his first day at school. The beginner, however, has already met with the cruel world at home, his family life being under some stress. It was a reminder to the Berkeley audience that if Swedish filming has got beyond Ingmar Bergman, it still leaves us with a twinge of sadness.

Peter Byrne

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