Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 29, No. 10. 1966.
Sir,—Can one say that unmoving problems treated in an unexciting way are considerable? Rex Benson did in his criticism of Bergman. I cannot claim to have seen any of the early films e.g. Crisis (1941) or to have read Cowie's criticism, but I did see all the films in the Bergman festival and base my criticism of Rex Benson's article on this.
Firstly his English style is to quote Benson "crapulent". His combination of words makes the possibility of taking the article as valid criticism impossible, yet the article must have been intended as such. What do such phrases as "The sexual high jinks of the underlings, for instance, are quite superfluous and about as tittilating as cold suet pudding," or "The distinguished man becomes a mouthpiece for a choice selection of religious platitudes." or "The whole thing smacks of catch-penny Freud" mean, or add to any criticism? As Benson said 'Comment is superfluous."
In regard to his criticism of Cowie. Cowie is entitled to his opinions, and they need not influence anyone. Whether Bergman's themes are original or not is irrelevant as is whether or not he first made the world aware that the film was an art. These principles do not alter the value of the films. Sarcasm is not criticism especially when in Benson's case it has no meaning.
"The Virgin Spring" we are told is an "Uncompromising film" which settles at an uneasy compromise," "Immediately compelling because of its dramatic potential." yet the human qualities are "negated." The summary comment to these observations is "it is not a memorial film." He states that the film assumes that sins are "expiated" through "sufficiently attractive offerings to God." Such comment is typical of Benson's style of attack which appears to be taking portions of the films out of context and implying anything but what Bergman meant. "Wild Strawberries" is a "better film." In reply to Benson I say Bergman made a film of the comment "You are guilty of guilt." The statement is not redundant: one does not by definition suffer guilt if one is guilty. Benson's point is. to quote again, "certainly tiresome." That Benson found certain portions blatant and was not impressed is not criticism worth printing, if he cannot give good reasons.
On "The Magician." he is reduced to comment that "The narrative does not flow quite smoothly enough." What would be smoothly enough?
Can it be said that Bergman films lack human warmth and are unmoving? Mr. Benson. Bergman has not got me "stupefied," but you do in your writing strike me with "awe." Is not your article, as you put it. "a trifle exaggerated?"—Glenys Forans.