Writings, 1944

A kind of dedication

A homage to Olof Molander.

About the text

In the programme to The Pelican, Bergman writes the following (just one of many published of his published tributes to his old master):

No one has done more to spread awareness in Sweden of the importance of Strindberg - drama’s great reformer and scenic iconoclast - than Olof Molander. It was Strindberg’s blistering dramas that sparked a strange flame in the minds of Europe’s directors, who suddenly found themselves plumbing the darkest depths of a Freudian sea in a tumult of plans, projections, and props. The result was the theatre of the auteur, the theatre of spectacle – but not Strindberg.

Molander has allowed us to appreciate the magic in Strindberg’s drama. It began with an appreciation for the fascinating power of the stage itself, as well as the congeniality of Strindberg’s dialogues. He has given us a Strindberg untouched by revisionism or the director’s own visions: he lets the text speak for itself. He allows us to hear the feverish pulse of an anguished poet, revealing a vision of the human condition as one of strife, sorrow and cruelty. It is to the accompaniment of a peculiar, muted chamber music that the Dream Play comes forth in all its grotesquery, terror and beauty.

There is certainly much to say about The Pelican. Night after night, I stood backstage without really understanding why. Then came Damascus, The Saga of the Folkungs, The Ghost Sonata – the kind of thing you never forget, not if you happen to become a director, and especially as a director who puts on a Strindberg drama. If I had known for certain that I had done a proper staging of The Pelican, I would have made an official dedication to Olof Molander. But seeing as that’s impossible to know until after the fact, and often not even then, these lines here will have to suffice.

Malmö in November

Ingmar Bergman.

As a more than slightly ironic postscript to this text, it was none other than Ingmar Bergman - by then head of Dramaten, and acting on orders from the board - who would end up firing Olof Molander from the theatre 20 years later.