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THE reclusive film director Ingmar Bergman broke a long public silence yesterday and weighed into Sweden's fierce debate about the limits of pornography, denouncing the movie business as a "branch of butchery and whoring".
He somewhat weakened this high moral stance by confessing to a fantasy of kissing the naked feet of two of his star actresses. The Swedish film-maker, now 82, is regarded as the grand old man of European cinema, having made his name with dark, disjointed works such as Persona and Cries and Whispers. Although Bergman had a playful side, he is viewed not least by his eager disciple Woody Allen as the master of tortured introspective dialogue.
He did not follow the example of many Swedish colleagues and lace his films with explicit sex. This gives him some clout in the pornography debate. His excursions to the mainland are prompted nowadays not by film projects but by stage direction. In his fantasy, revealed yesterday to the Stockholm newspaper Expressen, he sees Miss August and Miss Endre, wearing revealing bathing suits. I had just seen the Sydney Olympics so I was swimming the butterfly stroke quite quickly.
I dove up beneath their feet and kissed the soles of their feet. Sweden has more disturbing images on view than this harmless dream. A documentary film, Shocking Truth, recently exposed connections between the pornography industry, prostitution and mainstream private television channels.
Marita Ulvskog, the Culture Minister, showed the film to parliamentary deputies and mobilised support for a tightening of film censorship. The emphasis in Swedish censorship has been on protecting youth from scenes of violence rather than sex. The scope is being broadened as part of a wider moral backlash. Sweden has legislation in place to punish the male customers of prostitutes rather than prostitutes themselves. Bergman's comments describing the film business as a "branch of butchery and whoring" is likely to strike a sympathetic note among ordinary Swedes.