Jul 142018
 

Today is the birthday (1918) of Ernst Ingmar Bergman, a Swedish director, writer, and producer who worked in film, television, theatre and radio, and considered to be among the most accomplished and influential filmmakers of all time. Bergman directed over 60 films and documentaries for cinematic release and for television, most of which he also wrote. He also directed over 170 plays. From 1953, he forged a powerful creative partnership with his full-time cinematographer Sven Nykvist. Among his company of actors were Harriet and Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Gunnar Björnstrand, Erland Josephson, Ingrid Thulin and Max von Sydow. Most of his films were set in Sweden, and numerous films from Through a Glass Darkly (1961) onward were filmed on the island of Fårö. His work often deals with death, illness, faith, betrayal, bleakness and insanity.

Bergman was born in Uppsala, the son of Erik Bergman, a Lutheran minister and later chaplain to the king of Sweden, and Karin (née Åkerblom), a nurse who also had Walloon ancestors. He grew up with his older brother Dag and sister Margareta surrounded by religious imagery and discussion. His father was a conservative parish minister with strict ideas of parenting. Ingmar was locked up in dark closets for “infractions”, such as wetting the bed.  Ingmar wrote in his autobiography Laterna Magica,

While father preached away in the pulpit and the congregation prayed, sang, or listened I devoted my interest to the church’s mysterious world of low arches, thick walls, the smell of eternity, the coloured sunlight quivering above the strangest vegetation of medieval paintings and carved figures on ceilings and walls. There was everything that one’s imagination could desire—angels, saints, dragons, prophets, devils, humans.

Alth­­­ough raised in a devout Lutheran household, Bergman later stated that he lost his faith when aged 8, and only came to terms with this fact while making Winter Light in 1962. His interest in theater and film began early. At the age of nine, he traded a set of tin soldiers for a magic lantern, a possession, he claimed, altered the course of his life. Within a year, he had created a private world in which he felt completely at home, he recalled. He fashioned his own scenery, marionettes, and lighting effects and gave puppet productions of Strindberg plays in which he spoke all the parts.

Bergman attended Palmgren’s School as a teenager. His school years were unhappy, and he remembered them unfavorably in later years. In a 1944 letter concerning the film Torment (sometimes known as Frenzy), which sparked debate on the condition of Swedish high schools (and which Bergman had written), the school’s principal Henning Håkanson wrote, among other things, that Bergman had been a “problem child”. Bergman wrote in a response that he had strongly disliked the emphasis on homework and testing in his formal schooling.

In 1934, aged 16, Bergman was sent to Germany to spend the summer holidays with family friends. He attended a Nazi rally in Weimar at which he saw Adolf Hitler. He later wrote in Laterna Magica, about the visit to Germany, describing how the German family had put a portrait of Hitler on the wall by his bed, and that “for many years, I was on Hitler’s side, delighted by his success and saddened by his defeats”. Bergman commented that “Hitler was unbelievably charismatic. He electrified the crowd. … The Nazism I had seen seemed fun and youthful”. Bergman did two five-month stretches in Sweden of mandatory military service.

He entered Stockholm University College (later renamed Stockholm University) in 1937, to study art and literature. He spent most of his time involved in student theatre and became a “genuine movie addict”. Although he did not graduate, he wrote a number of plays and an opera, and became an assistant director at a theatre. In 1942, he was given the opportunity to direct one of his own scripts, Caspar’s Death. The play was seen by members of Svensk Filmindustri, which then offered Bergman a position working on scripts.

Bergman’s film career began in 1941 with his work rewriting scripts, but his first major accomplishment was in 1944 when he wrote the screenplay for Torment (Hets), a film directed by Alf Sjöberg. Along with writing the screenplay, he was also appointed assistant director of the film. In his second autobiographical book, Images: My Life in Film, Bergman describes the filming of the exteriors as his actual film directorial debut.[20] The film sparked debate on Swedish formal education. When Henning Håkanson (the principal of the high school Bergman had attended) wrote a letter following the film’s release, Bergman, according to scholar Frank Gado, disparaged in a response what he viewed as Håkanson’s implication that students “who did not fit some arbitrary prescription of worthiness deserved the system’s cruel neglect”. Bergman also stated in the letter that he “hated school as a principle, as a system and as an institution. And as such I have definitely not wanted to criticize my own school, but all schools.” The international success of this film led to Bergman’s first opportunity to direct a year later. During the next ten years he wrote and directed more than a dozen films, including Prison (Fängelse) in 1949, as well as Sawdust and Tinsel (Gycklarnas afton) and Summer with Monika (Sommaren med Monika), both from 1953.

Bergman first achieved worldwide success with Smiles of a Summer Night (Sommarnattens leende) (1955), which won for “Best poetic humour” and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes the following year. This was followed by The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet) and Wild Strawberries (Smultronstället), released in Sweden ten months apart in 1957. The Seventh Seal won a special jury prize and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and Wild Strawberries won numerous awards for Bergman and its star, Victor Sjöström. Bergman continued to be productive for the next two decades. From the early 1960s, he spent much of his life on the island of Fårö, where he made several films.

In the early 1960s he directed three films that explored the theme of faith and doubt in God, Through a Glass Darkly (Såsom i en Spegel, 1961), Winter Light (Nattvardsgästerna, 1962), and The Silence (Tystnaden, 1963). Critics created the notion that the common themes in these three films made them a trilogy or cinematic triptych. Bergman initially responded that he did not plan these three films as a trilogy and that he could not see any common motifs in them, but he later seemed to adopt the notion, with some equivocation.

In 1966, he directed Persona, a film that he himself considered one of his most important works. While the highly experimental film won few awards, many consider it his masterpiece. Other notable films of the period include The Virgin Spring (Jungfrukällan, 1960), Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen, 1968), Shame (Skammen, 1968) and The Passion of Anna (En Passion, 1969). He and his cinematographer Sven Nykvist made oft-noted use of a crimson color scheme for Cries and Whispers (1972), which is among Bergman’s most acclaimed films. He also produced extensively for Swedish television at this time. Two works of note were Scenes from a Marriage (Scener ur ett äktenskap, 1973) and The Magic Flute (Trollflöjten, 1975).

On 30th January 1976, while rehearsing August Strindberg’s The Dance of Death at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, Bergman was arrested by two plainclothes police officers and charged with income tax evasion. The impact of the event on Bergman was devastating. He suffered a breakdown as a result of the humiliation, and was hospitalized in a state of deep depression. The investigation was focused on an alleged 1970 transaction of 500,000 Swedish kronor (SEK) between Bergman’s Swedish company Cinematograf and its Swiss subsidiary, Persona, an entity that was mainly used for paying salaries to foreign actors. Bergman dissolved Persona in 1974 after having been notified by the Swedish Central Bank and subsequently reported the income. On 23rd March 1976, the special prosecutor Anders Nordenadler dropped the charges against Bergman, saying that the alleged crime had no legal basis, saying it would be like bringing “charges against a person who has stolen his own car, thinking it was someone else’s”. Director General Gösta Ekman, chief of the Swedish Internal Revenue Service, defended the failed investigation, saying that the investigation was dealing with important legal material and that Bergman was treated just like any other suspect. He expressed regret that Bergman had left the country, hoping that Bergman was a “stronger” person now when the investigation had shown that he had not done any wrong.

Even though the charges were dropped, Bergman became disconsolate, fearing he would never again return to directing. Despite pleas by the Swedish prime minister Olof Palme, high public figures, and leaders of the film industry, he vowed never to work in Sweden again. He closed down his studio on the island of Fårö, suspended two announced film projects, and went into self-imposed exile in Germany. Harry Schein, director of the Swedish Film Institute, estimated the immediate damage as 10 million Swedish kronor and hundreds of jobs lost.

Bergman then briefly considered the possibility of working in the US. His next film, The Serpent’s Egg (1977) was a German-U.S. production and his second English-language film (the first being 1971’s The Touch). This was followed by a British-Norwegian co-production, Autumn Sonata (Höstsonaten, 1978) starring Ingrid Bergman, and From the Life of the Marionettes (Aus dem Leben der Marionetten, 1980) which was a British-German co-production.

He temporarily returned to Sweden in 1982, to direct Fanny and Alexander (Fanny och Alexander). Bergman stated that the film would be his last, and that afterwards he would focus on directing theatre. After that, he wrote several film scripts and directed a number of television specials. As with previous work for TV, some of these productions were later released in theatres. The last such work was Saraband (2003), a sequel to Scenes from a Marriage and directed by Bergman when he was 84 years old.

Although he continued to operate from Munich, by mid-1978 Bergman had overcome some of his bitterness toward the government of Sweden. In July of that year he visited Sweden, celebrating his 60th birthday on the island of Fårö, and partly resumed his work as a director at Royal Dramatic Theatre. To honor his return, the Swedish Film Institute launched a new Ingmar Bergman Prize to be awarded annually for excellence in filmmaking. Still, he remained in Munich until 1984. In one of the last major interviews with Bergman, conducted in 2005 on the island of Fårö, Bergman said that despite being active during the exile, he had effectively lost 8 years of his professional life.

Bergman retired from filmmaking in December 2003. He had hip surgery in October 2006 and was making a difficult recovery. He died in his sleep at age 89. His body was found at his home on the island of Fårö, on 30th July 2007. (It was the same day another renowned film director, Michelangelo Antonioni, also died.) The interment was private, at the Fårö Church on 18th August 2007. A place in the Fårö churchyard was prepared for him under heavy secrecy. Although he was buried on the island of Fårö, his name and date of birth were inscribed under his wife’s name on a tomb at Roslagsbro churchyard, Norrtälje Municipality, several years before his death.


Winter Light is one of Bergman’s movies that attracts me the most, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3w0IQsN8XQ&t=683s  although I also like his interpretation of Mozart’s Magic Flute. I first saw Winter Light at a free screening at a church near my college at Oxford in my first week as a freshman studying theology. That was, without doubt, one of the oddest experiences of my life. There I was, a completely green student, with no real sense of which end was up in my life, watching a movie about the futility of Christianity, the angst of a pastor, and the mixed emotions of his meager congregation, while I was supposedly embarking on a career as a pastor myself. Meanwhile, the showing of the movie was followed by a tediously pointless sermon (that went on forever), by the vicar – who was a sort of local celebrity – “explaining” how Bergman’s view of the church was all wrong. Yes folks, contrary to Bergman’s vision, the church was alive and well, actively welcoming young students into the fold. Ugh. I got more than my fair share of this vicar’s pontificating over the course of my first year, aided and abetted by a cascade of Anglican dons as tutors and lecturers who turned me completely against any kind of vocation in the ministry for over 20 years. I was much more on Bergman’s side for a long time.  Ten years later, Magic Flute was a helpful antidote, although by then I was more than well on my way to being an anthropologist with an interest in religion from an academic standpoint, but not in any personal sense.

Here is a recipe for raggmunk, Swedish potato pancakes, traditionally served with salt pork and lingonberry jam. You can use thick-cut bacon instead of the salt pork if you like. This is common in Sweden.

Raggmunk

Ingredients

1 egg
90 gm buckwheat flour
300ml milk
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
800 gm peeled and grated potatoes
50 gm butter
400 gm salt pork or thick cured bacon
lingonberry jam

Instructions

Mix the flour and milk to a smooth paste, then add the egg and beat well. Season with salt and let rest for a few minutes. Mix in the grated potatoes.

Heat the butter over medium heat in a skillet until it sizzles but before it browns. Shape the pancake dough into patties and fry them on both sides until golden brown. Serve immediately with fried salt pork and  a generous helping of lingonberry jam.

Mar 272018
 

On this date in 1915, Mary Mallon, later commonly referred to as Typhoid Mary, the first healthy and asymptomatic carrier of a disease ever identified in the United States, was arrested and put in quarantine, where she would remain for the rest of her life. This was her second arrest, after she left her first confinement. One hopes she would be treated differently these days, although one never knows. I expect the CDC has better options for asymptomatic carriers of deadly diseases nowadays. You can sympathize with Mallon. She had never had typhoid and did not understand that she was a carrier. Very few people understood the problem at the time. She felt she was being harassed for no reason and just wanted to be left alone. The huge problem was that she worked as a cook, and therefore was a constant danger to public health.  She is known to have infected 51 people, 3 of whom died, over the course of her career as a cook. There is no knowing how many others she infected.

Mary Mallon was born in 1869 in Cookstown, County Tyrone, in what is now Northern Ireland. She emigrated to the United States in 1883. She lived with her aunt and uncle for a time and later found work as a cook for affluent families. From 1900 to 1907, Mallon worked as a cook in the New York City area for seven families. In 1900, she worked in Mamaroneck, New York, where, within two weeks of her employment, residents developed typhoid fever. In 1901, she moved to Manhattan, where members of the family for whom she worked developed fevers and diarrhea, and the laundress died. Mallon then went to work for a lawyer. She left after 7 of the 8 people in that household became ill. In 1906, she took a position in Oyster Bay, Long Island, and within two weeks 10 of the 11 family members were hospitalized with typhoid. She changed jobs again, and similar occurrences happened in three more households. She worked as a cook for the family of a wealthy New York banker, Charles Henry Warren. When the Warrens rented a house in Oyster Bay for the summer of 1906, Mallon went along too. From August 27th to September 3rd, 6 of the 11 people in the family came down with typhoid fever. The disease at that time was “unusual” in Oyster Bay, according to three medical doctors who practiced there. Mallon was subsequently hired by other families, and outbreaks followed her.

In late 1906, one family hired a typhoid researcher named George Soper to investigate. Soper published the results on June 15th, 1907, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. He believed Mallon might be the source of the outbreak. He wrote:

It was found that the family changed cooks on August 4. This was about three weeks before the typhoid epidemic broke out. She remained in the family only a short time, leaving about three weeks after the outbreak occurred. The cook was described as an Irish woman about 40 years of age, tall, heavy, single. She seemed to be in perfect health.

Soper discovered that a female Irish cook, who fit the physical description he was given, was involved in all of the outbreaks. He was unable to locate her because she generally left after an outbreak began, without giving a forwarding address. Soper learned of an active outbreak in a penthouse on Park Avenue, and discovered Mallon was the cook. Two of the household’s servants were hospitalized, and the daughter of the family died of typhoid. When Soper approached Mallon about her possible role in spreading typhoid, she adamantly rejected his request for urine and stool samples. Since Mallon refused to give samples, he decided to compile a five-year history of Mallon’s employment. Soper found that of the 8 families that hired Mallon as a cook, members of 7 claimed to have contracted typhoid fever. On his next visit, he brought another doctor with him but again was turned away. During a later encounter when Mallon was herself hospitalized, he told her he would write a book and give her all the royalties. She angrily rejected his proposal and locked herself in the bathroom until he left.

The New York City Health Department finally sent physician Sara Josephine Baker to talk to Mallon. Baker stated “by that time she was convinced that the law was only persecuting her when she had done nothing wrong.” A few days later, Baker arrived at Mallon’s workplace with several police officers, who took her into custody. Mallon attracted so much media attention that she was called “Typhoid Mary” in a 1908 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Later, in a textbook that defined typhoid fever, she was again called “Typhoid Mary.”

Mallon admitted poor hygiene, saying she did not understand the purpose of hand-washing because she did not pose a risk. In prison, she was forced to give stool and urine samples. Authorities suggested removing her gallbladder because they believed typhoid bacteria resided there. However, she refused as she did not believe she carried the disease. She was also unwilling to cease working as a cook. The New York City Health Inspector determined her to be a carrier. Under sections 1169 and 1170 of the Greater New York Charter, Mallon was held in isolation for three years at a clinic located on North Brother Island.

Eventually, Eugene H. Porter, the New York State Commissioner of Health, decided that disease carriers should no longer be kept in isolation and that Mallon could be freed if she agreed to stop working as a cook and take reasonable steps to prevent transmitting typhoid to others. On February 19th, 1910, Mallon agreed that she was “prepared to change her occupation (that of a cook), and would give assurance by affidavit that she would upon her release take such hygienic precautions as would protect those with whom she came in contact, from infection.” She was released from quarantine and returned to the mainland.

Upon her release, Mallon was given a job as a laundress, which paid less than cooking. After several unsuccessful years of working as a laundress, she changed her name to Mary Brown and returned to her former occupation despite having been explicitly instructed not to. For the next five years, she worked in a number of kitchens; wherever she worked, there were outbreaks of typhoid. However, she changed jobs frequently, and Soper was unable to find her.

In 1915, Mallon started another major outbreak, this time at Sloane Hospital for Women in New York City. 25 people were infected and two died. She again left, but the police were able to find and arrest her when she brought food to a friend on Long Island. After arresting her, public health authorities returned her to quarantine on North Brother Island on March 27, 1915. She was still unwilling to have her gallbladder removed. Mallon remained confined for the remainder of her life. She became a minor celebrity and was occasionally interviewed by the media. They were told not to accept even water from her. Later, she was allowed to work as a technician in the island’s laboratory, washing bottles.

Mallon spent the rest of her life in quarantine at the Riverside Hospital. Six years before her death, she was paralyzed by a stroke. On November 11, 1938, she died of pneumonia at age 69. An autopsy found evidence of live typhoid bacteria in her gallbladder. Mallon’s body was cremated, and her ashes were buried at Saint Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.

Mallon was the first asymptomatic typhoid carrier to be identified by medical science, and there was no policy providing guidelines for handling the situation. Some difficulties surrounding her case stemmed from Mallon’s vehement denial of her possible role, as she refused to acknowledge any connection between her working as a cook and the typhoid cases. Mallon maintained that she was perfectly healthy, had never had typhoid fever, and could not be the source. Public-health authorities determined that permanent quarantine was the only way to prevent Mallon from causing significant future typhoid outbreaks.

Other healthy typhoid carriers identified in the first quarter of the 20th century include Tony Labella, an Italian immigrant, presumed to have caused over 100 cases (with five deaths); an Adirondack guide dubbed “Typhoid John”, presumed to have infected 36 people (with two deaths); and Alphonse Cotils, a restaurateur and bakery owner.

In August 2013, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine announced they were making breakthroughs in understanding the exact science behind asymptomatic carriers such as Mallon. The bacteria that cause typhoid may hide in macrophages, a type of immune cell. Individuals can develop typhoid fever after ingesting food or water contaminated during handling by a human carrier. The human carrier may be a healthy person who has survived a previous episode of typhoid fever yet who continues to shed the associated bacteria, Salmonella typhi, in feces and urine. Washing hands with soap before touching or preparing food, washing dishes and utensils with soap and water, and only eating cooked food are all ways to reduce the risk of typhoid infection.

 

Typhoid Mary is a Marvel Comics character who appears most frequently as an adversary of Daredevil and also of Dead Pool.

Given that Mallon was an Irish cook, an Irish recipe is in order, but, wash your hands first before preparation. Soda farls (or soda bread) are traditional in all of Ireland, and in Northern Ireland “filled sodas” are popular. To make them you first make soda farls, split them open, and then fill them with your choice of cooked sausage, bacon, eggs, mushrooms and onions.

Soda Farls

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk

Instructions

Preheat a heavy based flat griddle or skillet on medium to low heat.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk.

Work quickly to mix into dough and knead very lightly on a well floured surface. Form into a flattened circle, about ½ inch thick and cut into quarters with a floured knife.

Sprinkle a little flour over the base of the hot pan and cook the farls for 6 to 8 minutes on each side or until golden brown.