Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Monday, 6 August 2007

Death and heroes

Ingmar Bergman is dead. He died a few days ago but I only just found out. I'd watched two documentaries about him on BBC4 a couple of weeks ago and, for the first time, the early film, Sawdust and Tinsel. I immediately went into the living room and told my wife. "That's sad," she replied and I tried to remember the last person whose death I took note of but I couldn't. It was an actor, of that I was confident, who had died but I couldn't think of his name. Now I've had time to think about it I realise it was the comedian-turned-actor Mike Reid.

It would be in the 1970s that I became aware of both men. It is quite possible that I had run across a Bergman film before that but I would no doubt have found it boring and it would have gone over my head. Reid, of course, was one of the original stars of The Comedians, a TV show featuring a host of stand-up comics. There was nothing subtle about his humour.

The first Bergman film I remember seeing - and it is still, sentimentally perhaps, my favourite - was The Silence. What struck me about it was its understated quality. It was also my first - and only for a very long time - exposure to the notion of female masturbation. That said, the scene in question happens and that is it. It is never referred to, explained or commented on and that it so true about the rest of the film. So much is unsaid and left to the viewer to make of it what he will.

I can't pretend that each death hasn't affected me not because I held either especially dear - I was devastated when Eric Morecambe died and I'm not looking forward to hearing of Woody Allen's passing - but because they were a part of my past. There places in my past are assured, nothing can change them but their places in my future will be taken by other funny men and filmmakers. Little by little I am having to live my life without these benchmarks and touchstones. Little by little I'm becoming surrounded by strangers.


Paul said...

"Little by little I'm becoming surrounded by strangers." That is a beautiful line, Jim. So original and yet perfectly capturing that part of getting older.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thank you, Paul. Seriously I think you're probably the first person ever to read that post, my very first. I really had no idea where I was going at the start. The important thing was to start and take it from there. Amazingly I'm still going.

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