A fan who realised Ingmar Bergman’s dream

By Satyen K. Bordoloi, IANS
Friday, July 16, 2010

FåröISLAND - Here in Faro Island, jostling alongside summer tourists are fans of the great director Ingmar Bergman from across the world on a pilgrimage of sorts. They go around visiting various sites where Bergman lived and shot many of his films.

But not many know that all this has been made possible by a rich Norwegian archaeologist and inventor, Hans Gude Gudesen, who is a big Bergman fan. He walks amid them but refuses to be recognised, thanked or interviewed.

The story is best heard from Bergman’s daughter, Linn Ullmann, and others who were close to him.

“Ingmar Bergman had many wives and many children and now many foundations,” says Linn, who oversees the Bergman Estate and the yearly event Bergman Week.

After Bergman died, his nine children could not come to a consensus about what to do with his property in Fårö Island. This includes ‘Hammars’, Bergman’s main residence; three more houses, including a converted wind mill, a private theatre, hundreds of film prints, thousands of books and video cassettes.

Bergman, who died July 30, 2007, had in his will dictated that his entire property be auctioned and the money divided among his children. Bergman fans worldwide as well as the Swedish government protested.

It would have been a shame if all these were to go to different people who’d not maintain the sanctity of the genius’ property. Besides, there was so much to learn here! Yet, the Swedish government was not willing to buy up the property and it went for auction.

However, a curious incident changed the history of this place.

Linn, Bergman’s daughter from Liv Ullmann, who stays in Norway, had given an interview in the country’s paper where she had outlined her father’s vision about converting his property into an artists’ retreat. She talked passionately about how if it was up to her, she would do what her father wished.

Unknown to her, someone was to challenge her to live up to her own words.

“During the auction, four men bought almost everything, outbidding almost everyone,” says Pia Lundberg, head of the international department at the Swedish Film Institute.

All the four were employees of Gudesen, who was a big Bergman fan and bought all the property for an amount no one discloses. He then passed it on to Linn to do what she had said she would.

“In Norwegian, ‘Gude’ is god, and he really acted like god,” says a grateful Liv. She too had been saddened that the house which Bergman had built for her and where the two stayed together for five years and where Linn was born would be ruthlessly auctioned away.

The house has been turned into an artists’ haven, where both Bergman researchers and artists from across the world could come, stay and create.

And the man who made it all possible was here in Faro during the Bergman Week, June 29-July 4, watching as part of the crowd from the fringes.

After a public meeting in the island’s community centre, Liv told IANS, “Hans Gude Gudesen read about it and gave his money away. He does not even want to be seen here. He was here, but he was sitting far behind, hidden and now he has left and did not even say goodbye to anyone. It is really fantastic.”

Millions of Bergman fans today and in the decades to come would agree with Liv. Artists may be many, but in a world where profit seems to be the only motive for existence, patrons like Gudesen are few.

(Satyen K. Bordoloi can be contacted at satyens@gmail.com)

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