It used to be that if you went to an Ingmar Bergman retrospective, you were likely to encounter an equally lonely soul just trying to make meaning in his own life out of enjoying how saliently Bergman can punctuate the meaninglessness of it. In short, to see a fellow Bergman viewer meant that in addition to being (or at least feeling) soulless, he was probably also your soul mate. Now, it just means he’s probably a pompous blowhard. This might have always been the underlying case when taking into account that Bergman is frequently referenced in Woody Allen movies, the likes of which only pseudo-intellectuals loved before it became a filmic crime to persist in admitting to enjoying his work (sexual assault accusations really have destroyed so much great cinema, have they not?).
And though Angela knew this truth to be self-evident, she was blindsided by the objective Swedish beauty of towering, lanky Hugo, who appeared to have a halo on his head as a result of his slicked back hair’s luminous blonde shine. She was drawn to his brightness as he stood in front of her in line to buy one ticket for Summer With Monika, one of forty-seven of the auteur’s films being showcased at the Film Forum to commemorate his one hundredth birthday. Angela, who had written her thesis on Bergman’s influence on, incidentally, the work of Woody Allen, in film school could not resist the temptation of going to the theater to see some of her favorites on the big screen–even though she knew it would mean encountering the type of person Alvy Singer would need to dredge up Marshall McLuhan out of the wings for. Still, the opportunity proved too alluring to miss out on, and Angela was feeling a bit too happy these days from all her professional success in the field of film criticism. She needed Bergman to remind her about the unavoidably horrendous nature of living. That life can kick you down at any second, especially when it notices you enjoying yourself too much.
Frozen in place as a result of her Hugo reverie, Angela was jarred by a middle-aged woman waiting behind her with a man she looked to have well wrapped around her finger (one that had probably never dared to experiment by sticking it up his rectum). The woman tapped her on the shoulder, venomously reminding, “Excuse me? You’re up.” Hugo turned around at the words “Excuse me,” likely used to the sound of people trying to get his attention. He paused at the sight of Angela, as though seeing something endearing in her high-neck white ruffle blouse and plaid skirt. As though he could appreciate that she was treating this as an “event.” He smiled at her and walked on, leaving Angela in a continued paralyzed state, much to the extreme dismay of the tightly-wound woman.
When she had collected herself for long enough to purchase a ticket, she realized that this was first instance in a very long time that she had even bothered to think about men in a lustful way. So consumed had she been by seeing movies in advance and turning in the pieces on them by the requested deadline that it left so little room to think about the facet of her existence that was destitute–that facet, of course, being love. While she may have achieved the impossible New York dream of living alone in a non-shithole and doing something for money that didn’t make her want to pack her head in ice, it had been almost two years since her last serious relationship ended. The ex in question hated movies, viewed them as a frivolous indulgence that sucked away one’s time when she could actually be doing something meaningful and non-escapist with it. Obviously, it was one of the major factors that led to their inexorable breakup. Indeed, there was something that seemed to emanate from Hayden’s very core that prompted strangers to make such non sequitur remarks as, “When’s the last time you saw a movie?” Hayden would never apologize for his disinterest though–in film or anything else that Angela was passionate about. When things finally did come to their not so natural end between the two, Hayden’s reaction was one of utter nonchalance. And this after she dramatically hurled at his head a plate from a set she had bought while on a trip to Woodstock in Vermont with him. The “romantic getaway,” as she had planned it, turned out to consist of her doing a lot of “antiquing” while Hayden would hit the slopes every day at the Suicide Six Ski Area. After the first three days, suicide was just what Angela wanted to commit from such lack of stimulation. It was during this mini-break that Angela fully synthesized the notion that things with Hayden were on a downward slide.
And even though she had come to learn that Hayden wasn’t “right” for her, the scar remained there, imprinted firmly on her heart and in her hippocampus. So it was that, up until the very moment of seeing Hugo, Angela hadn’t admitted to herself just how much and how long she had suppressed any sense of desire for another as a means of self-preservation. Yet with one glimpse of Hugo’s coiffure and head to toe black ensemble of a long sleeve henley shirt and skinny jeans, her firmly-held protective hard coating just melted away, dissolving after sloshing against that steely Nordic exterior.
As she made her way into the theater after purchasing a small popcorn and a Diet Coke, her eyes darted about in search of that standout head of hair, but it was nowhere to be found. Had he gone into the wrong theater? Decided to take an impromptu shit? Where was he? Briefly considering that perhaps she had imagined him, Angela took over an aisle seat in the center back of the space. As trivia questions flashed on the screen, she imagined one of them to say:
Which location will Angela Mariano experience her next meet-cute?
A) At an Ingmar Bergman movie at the Film Forum
B) In line at a bodega while buying cat food and a bag of Kettle chips
C) While fighting over a cab with the only other person who still takes cabs in New York City
D) At the morgue when she’s at last transcended into the afterlife where surely her match must have disappeared to
In the midst of her castle-building, she was interrupted by the sight of Hugo plopping down in the seat right in front of her, as though deliberately wanting to obstruct her view with his tall frame. He didn’t care about or consider other people, least of all her. She had imagined another connection that was never really there.
It was then she knew: he was an asshole that she had built up in her mind again. And just to further confirm her theory, as the Janus Films logo appeared on the screen, Hugo turned around to bark at her, “Can you please stop chewing so loudly? Give Bergman the reverence he deserves.” Hugo had reminded her that to see a Bergman movie out in public was to envelop oneself in turgidity. And would certainly not aid in the encountering of a true love, but rather, a true dilettante.