Before I became a PhD dropout – before I even applied to doctoral programs – I took a film class to bone up on the academic side of film so my communication degrees would not blind the professors who would receive my applications to my true interest: film. Yes, I had two full degrees in communication studies and only a few hours of coursework in film studies, but I did not let that stop me.

I got right down to brass tacks by writing a paper about a man whose films make viewers feel like they are watching the films of someone who enjoys eating brass tacks. The man in question was Swedish film maestro Ingmar Bergman. He made leaded films capable of weighing down the happiest of hearts. I wanted to demonstrate that I was a serious applicant, and I figured there could be no one more “serious” in the world of film than Bergman. A person could write all day and night about the French New Wave and namedrop D. W. Griffith and Sergei Eisenstein and Alfred Hitchcock, but I knew Bergman’s name would be a skeleton key capable of opening any academic door.

Which is why 4 out of 5 schools rejected me and the only one that offered me admission did not offer me any form of scholarship whatsoever. As it turned out, the program was pretty penniless anyway, which ultimately led to my withdrawal from it. Actually, allow me to elaborate a bit: The funding was utterly nonexistent, the professorial support lacking, and the torturous “seminar” style classes unbearable. One teacher lost my paper and those of all my classmates, and simply awarded us all A’s for that particular assignment.

But I digress. Back to Bergman. I cannot really watch many of Bergman’s films now. I still find Persona provocative and compelling, and The Virgin Spring is a masterpiece. But The Seventh Seal? While it is most certainly an important film, it is also a terribly depressing film. Most of Bergman’s films are depressing films, in fact. In a 2004 interview with BBC News, Bergman admitted he found his own films depressing as well. All the same, below you can download my paper on Bergman in PDF format.

If, like me, you want to convince someone that you are a serious film student, you can hardly go wrong with Bergman, and my paper may help you choose a few films to screen. Just make sure you have some Prozac handy. You will need it. If, on the other hand, you are a more casual film viewer, you may wish to opt instead for … ahem, unleaded film. Something lighter, like Schindler’s List or Blue Velvet.

Austere Auteur – The Cinematic Signature of Ingmar Bergman (Right-click and “Save Link as” to Download)