Fischer, Gunnar

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Cinematographer. Nationality: Swedish. Born: Ljungby, 18 November 1910. Education: Studied in Stockholm and Copenhagen. Family: Son: the cinematographer Peter Fischer. Career: Entered films as second cameraman in the 1930s; 1942—first film as cinematographer, It Is My Music; 1948—first of several films for Ingmar Bergman, Port of Call; TV work includes series Raskens, 1974; also illustrator of children's books; 1975—retired.

Films as 2nd Cameraman:


Smålänningar (People of Småland) (Rodin)


Samvetsömma Adolf (Conscientious Adolf) (Wallen); Johan Ulfstjerna (Edgren); Hans, hon, och pengarna (He, She, and the Money) (Henrikson); Aventyret (Adventure) (Branner); 65, 66, och jag (Privates 65, 66, and I) (Henrikson)


Klart till drabbning (Clear the Decks for Action) (Adolphson); Sara lär sig folkvett (Sara Learns Manners) (Molander); Pappas pojke (Rich Man's Son) (Martin)


Blixt och dunder (Thunder and Lightning) (Henrikson); Goda vänner, trogna grannar (Good Friends and Faithful Neighbors) (Hildebrand)


Valfångare (Whalers) (Henrikson); Emilie Högqvist (Molander)


Lärarinna på vift (Schoolmistress on the Spree) (Larsson); Dunungen (Downy Girl) (Hildebrand)


Flickan i fönstret mittemot (Girl in the Window Opposite) (Jerring); Jacobs stege (Jacob's Ladder) (Molander)

Films as Cinematographer:


Det är min musik (It Is My Music) (Larsson)


Natt i hamn (Night in the Harbor) (Faustman) (+ co-sc)


Två människor (Two People) (Dreyer); Blåjackor (Bluejackets) (Husberg); Tant Grun, Tant Brun, och Tant Gredelin (Aunt Green, Aunt Brown, and Aunt Lilac) (Lindstrom)


Krigsmans erinran (Soldier's Duties) (Faustman); Tappa inte sugen (Don't Give Up) (Kjellgren)


Hamnstad (Port of Call) (Bergman); Soldat Bom (Private Bom) (Kjellgren)


Törst (Thirst) (Bergman); Ports of Industrial Scandinavia: Sweden's East Coast (Colleran—short)


Till glädje (To Joy) (Bergman); Sånt händer inte här (High Tension) (Bergman)


Sommarlek (Summer Interlude) (Bergman)


Kvinnors väntan (Waiting Women) (Bergman); I dimma dold (Hidden in the Fog) (Kjellgren)


Sommaren med Monika (Summer with Monika) (Bergman); Gycklarnas afton (The Naked Night; Sawdust and Tinsel) (Bergman) (co); Vi tre debutera (We Three Debutantes) (Ekman)


Seger i mörker (Victory in the Dark) (Folke); Gabrielle (Ekman); Ballettens born (Ballet Girl) (A. Henning-Jensen—short)


Stampen (Pawn Shop) (Lagerkvist); Egen ingång (Private Entrance) (Ekman); Sommarnattens leende (Smiles of a Summer Night) (Bergman); Den hårda leken (The Tough Game) (Kjellgren)


Det sjunde inseglet (The Seventh Seal) (Bergman); Möten i skymningen (Twilight Meeting) (Kjellin); SmultronstŠllet (Wild Strawberries) (Bergman); Lek på regnbågen (Playing on the Rainbow) (Kjellgren); Batavernas trohetsed (The Batavians' Oath of Fidelity) (Derkert—short) (co)


Du är mitt äventry (You Are My Adventure) (Olin); Ansiktet (The Magician; The Face) (Bergman)


Det svänger på slottet (Swinging at the Castle) (Kjellin); Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates (Foster)


Djävulens öga (The Devil's Eye) (Bergman); Ett glass vin (A Glass of Wine) (Werner—short)


Pojken i trädet (The Boy in the Tree) (Sucksdorff); Two Living, One Dead (Asquith); Een blandt mange (One among Many) (A. Henning-Jensen); Lustgården (Pleasure Garden) (Kjellin)


Siska (Kjellin); Kort är sommaren (Pan; Short Is the Summer) (B. Henning-Jensen); Vittnesbörd om henne (Testimonies) (Donner—short)


Min kära är en ros (My Love Is Like a Rose) (Ekman); Mamsell Josabeth (Miss Josabeth) (+ d—short); För vänskaps skull (For Friendship) (Abramson)


491 (Sjöman)


Juninatt (June Night) (Liedholm); Ojojoj eller sången om den eldröda hummern (Well Well Well) (Axelman); Väntandevatten (Waiting Water) (Werner—short); Drottningholms slottsteater (The Drottningholm Palace Theatre) (+ d—short)


Adamson i Sverige (I Need a Woman) (Ericsson) (co); Slut (The End) (Forsberg—short); Pianolektionen (The Piano Lesson) (Nordin—short)


"Han-Hon" ("He-She"), "Birgit Nilsson," and "Smycket" ("The Necklace"), eps. of Stimulantia (Donner, Arnbom, and Molander); Djävulens instrument (The Devil's Instrument) (+ d—short); Ola och Julia (Ola and Julia) (Halldoff) (co); Ack, du är some en ros (Oh, You Are Like a Rose) (+ d, sc—short)


Svarta palmkronor (Black Palm Trees) (Lindgren); Made in Sweden (Bergenstrahle)


Miss and Mrs. Sweden (Gentele); Krakguldet (Fool's Gold) (Krantz)


Is (Ice) (Lindman)


Din stund pa jorden (Your Time on Earth) (Sjöstrand)


Parade (Tati) (co)


Raskens (Sjöstrand—mini-series for TV)

Other Films:


Stora Skrällen (Big Crash) (Jerring) (cam)


Biffen och bananen (Biffen and the Banana) (Husberg) (cam)


Beröringen (The Touch) (Bergman) (titles ph)

* * *

Gunnar Fischer was the director of photography on the films that first brought Ingmar Bergman worldwide renown. Like most Swedish cinematographers, he is a master of practical lighting and operates his own camera. His style is heavily influenced both by the facial landscapes of Carl Dreyer, for whom he worked, and by the psychological landscapes of Victor Sjöström, whom he knew. Fischer is thus in the mainstream of the Scandinavian tradition. His work features some of the closest and most intensely psychological close-ups and two-shots in film history. He favors a cold, bleak lighting that lends many of Bergman's early films a sense of despair the director may not have intended. In Fischer's films, one is constantly in a world governed by a changeable moral atmosphere which is signified by variations in light, from harshly overexposed noontimes to backlit twilights.

His early films for Bergman have a misleading flavor of Italian neorealism, not surprising given their period, but as the emphasis of Bergman's films is on moral conflict so the cinematography's harshness indicates a psychological or emotional rather than social barrenness. For example, the emotionally devastated clown at the end of Sawdust and Tinsel is photographed in growing isolation from the onlookers, and the film is overexposed to convey a spiritual nakedness which is outside of social criticism.

The pseudo-neorealist harshness of the 1940s gives way to the symbolic dreamscape of the 1950s in Wild Strawberries. Here the shift from past to present, from memory to actuality to dream, is signified largely by changes in light: a soft-focus, bright light for the past, a darker light for the present, an overexposed world or an intensely dark one filled with fearfully sharp contrasts and huge faces for dreams. In The Seventh Seal, the shift from one moral world to another is conveyed through lighting. A bright and soft natural light indicates characters at peace, while heavy filters and backlighting indicate moral doubt, and harsh contrasts in overexposed film indicate hollow spirituality. Although Fischer's lighting effects on Bergman's black-and-white films vary extraordinarily in technique, often within the same film, they nonetheless convey an aesthetic unity.

Fischer's lighting is too extreme to be easily interpreted by others, but he is one of several European cinematographers responsible for the popular equation between harsh, black-and-white cinematography and art films in American culture in the 1950s and 1960s. Indirectly, he has influenced such Hollywood art films as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Fischer and Bergman parted company after The Devil's Eye. Bergman's style was mellowing, and he was gaining more technical expertise and authority. When he could not persuade Fischer to soften his lighting techniques, Bergman switched to Sven Nykvist as his director of photography. Since Fischer's retirement in 1975, he has lectured on film lighting at various Scandinavian universities.

—Patricia Ferrara