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Ingmar Bergman Dies; Swedish Filmmaker Leaves Behind Unfinished Script for Unproduced Baseball Movie

Ingmar Bergman

Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman wrote script for unproduced baseball movie that pitted pitcher and batter in titanic existential struggle.

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN (Sportsman’s Daily Wire Service) – Ingmar Bergman, considered one of the greatest directors in the history of film, died today on the small island of Faro on the Baltic coast of Sweden. Bergman was 89. The New York Times obituary describes Bergman's films as dealing "with pain and torment, desire and religion, evil and love," so it came as a great surprise when it was recently learned that a script for an unproduced baseball movie was found among his papers.

Titled "A Foul Wind Silently Howls," the two hundred and forty-five page film script is based on a single event: the flight of a baseball as it leaves the pitcher's hand. In the fraction of a second that the batter, Sven Bjorkman, has to react as the baseball approaches, a lifetime of (Bjorkman's) inner torment unfolds across the screen.

"On one hand, who could have imagined Bergman, living on a desolate, chilly island off of Sweden, taking an interest in any sport, let alone baseball," said David Denby, the New Yorker's chief movie critic. "Bergman's entire world view is about the isolation and fragility of modern man, sans belief, hope or love. The image of Bergman watching Sports Center or poring over box scores, or even reading a Phillip Roth book, is hard to conjure. But if you strip the game to its core -- the batter standing alone, the fate of the world pressing down upon him, with little but a stick of wood standing between triumph and oblivion, it begins to make sense."

The script gives few clues as to Bergman's understanding of the game itself. He sets the scene as follows: "Location: a soul-less perimeter of precisely arranged earth, surrounded by a Bosch-like cinemascape of despairing spectators living on the precipice of hope and hopelessness. At the center of the soul-numbing vortex is a raised patch of barren dirt -- it is a place as indifferent to life as a sullen lunar crater. Atop this patch looms a large man in a nondescript uniform -- his dark, hooded features glower menacingly from beneath the bill of his dirt-stained cap. He peers in and prepares to unleash a white orb toward a man standing precisely 66.6 inches away. The camera slowly pans across this man's back -- the letters B J O R K M A N appear. The slow pan underscores the duality of the Bjorkman character -- he is both everyman and superman. But one thing is made very clear: whatever the outcome, one day he too will be laid into the cold earth, his triumphs and failures blurring into an undifferentiated black mass of meaninglessness."

"I can't imagine anyone but Bergman fusing religion, death and existentialism with baseball and actually putting fannies in the seats," said Ron Shelton, writer and director of "Bull Durham" and himself a former minor league baseball player. "That's a film I would have loved to have seen. In fact, it's a film I want to make, if we can secure the rights. I can see filming it in Stockholm, in the dead of winter, in an abandoned stadium, set against a frigid, remorseless sky. Depressing, yes, but we're optimistic we'll get it done. In fact, we've already locked up Bud Selig for a cameo role -- he'll look perfect in a black hood carrying a scythe."

"A Foul Wind Silently Howls" ends with a typical Bergmanesque flourish. "Just before the white orb reaches the awaiting Bjorkman, the screen goes black. Followed by five seconds of pregnant silence -- the silence of the eternal void. Then, a procession of dirge-like notes sound: dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah. And up from the inky depths emerges a collective groan: C-H-A-R-G-E. It is both a death rattle and a distant bleat of hope for a better world -- a world with quality pitching and a consistent strike zone."

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