Scenes from an Audience : The auteur and the film text in audience experiences: Ingmar Bergman – a case study

Sammanfattning: Over the last decades, the new cinema history (NCH) strand has developed within film studies. This new strand moves away from the traditional focus on film texts and instead focuses on cinemagoing as social and cultural phenomenon, and the cinema as a social institution. Although identifying with this strand, the central claim of this doctoral dissertation is that the radical move away from film texts and authors has obscured their relevance in audience experiences within NCH studies. Using the case of Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman, this dissertation first aims to re-integrate the text and auteur into historical reception studies. Second, making use of audience interviews, the aim is to re-write Bergman's canonical position through these audience accounts.Following Staiger (1992; 2000), the auteur is considered to be context-dependent, where societal discourses give rise to specific reception conditions and interpretations. Staiger further claims that the text is important in that it provides "sense-data", but remains rather vague on this point. In this dissertation, the text will be taken into account through the concept of cueing: how certain formal characteristics likely give rise to particular interpretations.The audience interviews were conducted in Sweden and Belgium. Kuhn's work on cinema memory (e.g. 2002) is crucial here. These interviews are triangulated with archival research and textual analysis. The consequences of the comparative setup, Sweden vs. Belgium, is critically considered in the empirical chapter.Key findings are that Bergman's unusual love life and his own persona-building are crucial in the reception of his films. The different national contexts play a role in how participants identify with both the auteur Bergman and the characters in his films. Sweden as a socio-cultural construct returns throughout participants' accounts, illustrating that "place" is relevant to cinema memory in other ways as well. Via the case study on Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage (1973), the dissertation illustrates how audience conceptions of heterosexual love (and marriage) play a fundamental role in the emotional experience of the series/film, and in the memories of that experience too.Considering historical film reception as a complex phenomenon, this dissertation provides a more comprehensive approach to that reception by considering the text and the auteur alongside NCH's traditional focus on context.