I have a lot of time for Roger Ebert. I was just reading an article he wrote recently about his new book, Great Movies. Two passages struck me as immortal. One is about one of my favourite film makers and a man whose vision I have grown to see as one of the key ones of the twentieth century: Ingmar Bergman. He talks of coming home from his sickness, and
Soon after I returned home I turned to Bergman, who is a filmmaker for thoughtful moods. His new Criterion discs have been restored to an astonishing black and white beauty, and I fell into them. It's conventional to write of "his great cinematographer, Sven Nykvist," but my God, he is great, and I found myself trying to describe the perfection of his lighting. I responded strongly to Bergman's passion about fundamental questions of life and death, guilt, mortality, and what he regards as the silence of God. I'd seen all these films on first release, but now, at an older age, having walked through the valley, I saw them quite differently. Norman Cousins famously found during an illness that comedy helped heal him. For me, it was Bergman.Again at the end of the essay Ebert reaches a truth about literature, film and history. He says
I believe good movies are a civilizing force. They allow us to empathize with those whose lives are different than our own. I like to say they open windows in our box of space and time.In Shadowlands, C.S. Lewis says at one point that we read to know we are not alone. Ebert makes the point as well but its a point we all do well to remember, to have repeated again and again. Lost in the prison of our own lonely consciousness, film and books, music and history are things which can reintroduce us to a world which we lose every time we close our eyes.