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An ecocritical examination of the birds of Bergman
Linda Haverty Rugg

This chapter explores how Ingmar Bergman’s films reflect on the non-human environment through the frequent and striking representation of birdsong. Birdsong in Bergman’s films illustrates what Timothy Morton, in Ecology without Nature (2007), describes as a ‘poetics of ambience’, which indicates that ‘ambience’ in art is not truly ambient, but constructed. Thus, this chapter shows how particular birds are chosen for specific effect in Bergman’s film narratives. Both folkloric beliefs about birds and their song and psychological responses to birdsong find expression in many of Bergman’s films, and a hint of horror enters with the creation of the demonic ‘birdman’ in Vargtimmen (Hour of the Wolf, 1968). In that film the ‘birdman’ is, oddly enough, linked to the comic figure of Papageno the bird-catcher from The Magic Flute. Another association with Papageno comes up with Bergman’s repeated use of the surname Vogler (bird-catcher) for figures in his films, and those Voglers, like the birdman, tend toward the demonic. The conclusion is that Bergman’s use of birds and birdsong as prophecies of death, as demonic, or as indifferent to human fate, could be said to reflect what Morton calls ‘dark ecology’, a queer representation of both beauty and terror, an expression of the desire to stay with a dying world.

in Ingmar Bergman