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The Author and Ingmar Bergman: Two Legacies Endure

John Orr’s proposal for a text on Swedish director Ingmar Bergman first came to Berghahn in 2009. In September 2010, however, the prominent film scholar passed away with a manuscript in peer review. It was Professor Orr’s wife, Anne, who took up the finalization of the book, shepherding it through stages of review, revision and production to its publication. Now, this month, The Demons of Modernity: Ingmar Bergman and European Cinema will be published. Following, Anne Orr, who wrote about her experience in the volume’s Afterword, briefly introduces the book and what it meant to help bring it to fruition.



When my husband John Orr died suddenly during the writing of The Demons of Modernity, it was comforting to be assured by two of the foremost experts on Ingmar Bergman – Peter Cowie and Maaret Koskinen – that they considered the manuscript as it stood an original and worthwhile contribution to studies of Bergman.


Most gratifyingly they both commented on the quality of John’s writing. Peter Cowie remarked that ‘It is a pleasure to read Orr’s elegant prose, which eschews the obtuse terminology of semiotics in favour of a lucid, almost passionate approach to the material’. And Maaret Koskinen in her Foreword to the book states ‘John Orr is simply a fine writer whose language is characterized by elegance and clarity’.


John had been interested in writing on Bergman for a number of years, but as a writer on film he would only embark on a study of a major director if he felt that he had something new and fresh to add to the existing literature. Maaret Koskinen confirms that in approaching Bergman through the prism on modernity and comparing him with other European directors, John produced ‘the first book-length study of Bergman’s films in a specifically European context – politically, philosophically and aesthetically’, and that he placed Bergman ‘at the very centre of European film history’.


In this book the concept of demonic modernity is traced through the many aspect of Bergman’s films — how the anguish of his loss of faith in religion, politics and art is forged into a positive vision. As John states, ‘Bergman’s is a tactile cinema, a cinema of the flesh that rejects pure spirituality and brings the spectator up close and personal to the textures of the skin, of water, of sweat and tears . . . Bergman’s cinema is a celebration of the density of being, of the joys (and heartbreaks) of a material world’.


Not a bad subject for a final book!




John Orr was Emeritus Professor at the University of Edinburgh where he taught film studies. He contributed to many film journals, and his books include Cinema and Modernity, Contemporary Cinema, The Art and Politics of Film, and Hitchcock and Twentieth Century Cinema. His most recent book is Romantics and Modernists in British Cinema (Edinburgh UP, 2010).