When We Used to Write: Kubrick’s Fan Letter to Bergman
In 1960, still relatively unknown director Stanley Kubrick wrote a fan letter to Ingmar Bergman, expressing his gratitude for the Swedish director’s work that ‘have moved [him] deeply, much more deeply than [he has] ever been moved by any films‘.
Reading this typed letter, where one major director shares his admiration to another with its typos and inked signature, is fascinating and reminiscing of a time where communicating cost time and effort, and thus meant a lot. (Which is why a project like the Animator Letters Project found such a great reception.)
It is one of many letters, postcards, faxes that you can discover or rediscover on Letters of Note, a website that archives any analog correspondence worth sharing. In the cinema category alone you can read letters from Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, James Dean, Tim Burton, Audrey Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin, Brad Bird or Marlon Brando to name a few.
Below is the original letter, and you can read the full transcript here.It was a time when writing to a peer or someone you looked up to meant something and often came with reward. (i.e. The Exorcist tongue J.J. Abrams received in box as an answer to the fan letter he sent to make-up artist Dick Smith when he was fourteen.)
During their Hammer conversation, composer Michael Giacchino and Abrams developed on the lost concept of fan letters and time passing vs immediacy:
Giacchino: ‘That’s the great thing about the time we grew up, the idea that you could put something in the mail and then maybe get something back. That was pretty great. Email is email and it’s great and it’s fantastic but the idea of that time that has to pass for you to wait for something…‘
Abrams: ‘You’ve mentioned this thing twice now and I think it’s a completely sort of potent idea and something that is somehow lost now, the idea of time, of investment, of process. Now we’re in an age where when we want a song, we click something that is not even an actual button, we pay money we don’t actually hold, we get the song we don’t actually see… There’s no evidence of anything that has happened.‘
I recommend the whole talk, and this particular section that goes on and deeper after the end of the above quote. (It starts around minute 42)
Appreciation takes time and personal investment, and Kubrick’s physical letter to Bergman is a strong testimony of his admiration. One could argue that if Kubrick has had access to a wifi and a smart phone, he might have ended up sending a five lines pre-signed email, or a 140 words tweet, but would Kubrick have been Kubrick if he didn’t have to stop and take the time to write this letter?
As I mentioned earlier this week, the urge to have immediate and quantifiable results to justify our existence to our peers and the volume of noise surrounding us today modify greatly our way to receive and, let’s say it, consume art. This is a theme dear to my heart and that will probably come back on this site. Writing everyday on mentorless is also my way to show my appreciation to other people’s work, by sharing it and saying ‘Hey, I have seen what you’re doing and I think it’s worth talking about it a little longer.‘
Or hopefully that’s how the message comes across.