Can A Film About Personal Relationships Help Us To Understand Something Important About Socio-Political Reality?

Bergman’s “The Touch” is dedicated to depiction and analysis of personal relationship and amorous encounter between two people with incompatible levels of psychological maturity – when one person (David) just self-asserts through his love affair which he perceives in one perspective – how it treats him and what it provides him with, while another (Karin) emotionally nurtures her beloved and protects him from his adversary perception of the reality – pacifying his soul and step by step making his frustrations, suspicions, fears and painful skin-thinness – unnecessary and obstacle for his own and other people’s wellbeing.

It’s very difficult to be psychologically immature – to feel animosity towards the world and permanently try to strengthen one’s social position in order to be invulnerable before others – to take “preventive” advantage over them. But, of course, even more difficult is to be psychologically mature – to contain the suspicious and manipulative behavior of another people (not to revenge disgust with disgust). Bergman’s Karin (Bibi Andersson) can do much more than that – she intuitively, without any conscious pretensions, tried to make an informal – existential psychotherapy with her beloved David as a part of their love and togetherness. In the socio-political area the equivalent of Karin’s deed would be the capability of whole society to “cure” the morbid need of the neocons to be permanently at war and try to strengthen themselves in their fighting against other people (be they Americans or citizens of other countries) through transforming money into weapon and weapon into money and, moved by obsessive belligerence and greed, using advanced technologies to perfect their domination over the world.

Karin achieved a lot in liberating David from his uncontrolled animosity behind his over-sensitivity and proclivity for manipulation, but the last and ultimate ordeal of her love for him is the comprehension that she has to let him go, not as a “failure” of their love, but, paradoxically, as a triumph of their relationship. Their love was necessary for him to start to believe in himself, to become more confident ontologically – to feel that he is a part of a pantheistic spirituality of the world, to become tolerant and not afraid of otherness. Now, when by the therapeutic effects of his love with Karin he is freed from the posture of self-assertion, his proclivity to fight for domination and absence of care about others, it is time for him to be able for decent behavior with his peers. Again, the equivalent in the realm of socio-political behavior is the possibility (may be, only idealistic spiritual dream) that after existential – inside the very life, therapy the neocons will discover that other (dissimilar) people can be opened for friendship as much as to animosity, that they’re not less human than neocons inside their souls (behind their tireless attempts to exploit, control, dominate in order to prove their superiority, to be manipulators of superhuman status).

In “The Touch” Bergman’s psychological analysis of personal relationships can be relevant for better understanding of the political divide between the American democratic orientation on helping elderly and needy or the young ones who need free humanistic education, and the political position of American neocons with their blind orientation on personal financial enrichment, their support for austerity measures for a wider population, and with their tendency to manipulate the environment, insult their political opponents and stage public scandals. Neocons belonged to the widespread group of psychologically immature people, while democrats, while being unable to fight for the humanistic ideas effectively, are still more decent people caring not only about their personal interests but about other people. Of course, Bergman’s David (Elliott Gould) is still much more refined than neocons of today, but if to “transpose” his psychological immaturity into the area of socio-political relations, it could be the same type of behavior because it belongs to the same psychological essence. The discrepancy between psychological immaturity – the tendency to mainly care about your own advantage and seeing world as clash of powers and wills, and psychological maturity – orientation on the equality-and justice in the world, realizes itself in social relations as much as it shows itself in personal relations. Bergman’s film helps us to see and to feel the difference between these two so different styles of human behavior and how the existentially-spiritually more developed people can help the less developed to overcome their psycho-neurosis of immaturity.

Full film “The Touch” (1971) by Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman and Bibi Andersson
Ingmar Bergman and Bibi Andersson

Bergman is directing Sheila Reid, playing the role of David’s sister
Bergman is directing Sheila Reid, playing the role of David’s sister who survived the Holocaust, like David, and is tied to him by their shared grief about the murder of their family.

Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson and Elliott Gould
Bergman (on the right), Max von Sydow (Andreas), Bibi Andersson (Karin) and Elliott Gould (David)

Emphasizing the historical condemnation David lives under
David’s work as an anthropologist includes some archeological interests. But this shot is symbolically important because it is emphasizing the historical condemnation David lives under, that makes him so self-centered, sometimes “arrogant” and full of defensive suspiciousness of others and the world.

Posted on Jan, 24 ’16 –   Ingmar Bergman’s “The Touch/Beroringen” (1971) – Personal Love as Inexhaustible Emotional (But in No Way a Sentimental) Generosity by Acting-Out Politics