Born July 14, 1918, in Uppsala, Sweden; son of Erik (a chaplain to the Royal Court of Stockholm) and Karin (Åkerblom) Bergman; married Else Fisher (a dancer), 1943 (marriage ended); married Ellen Lundström (a dancer), 1945 (divorced, 1950); married Gun Grut (a journalist), 1950 (marriage ended); married Käbi Laretei (a pianist), 1959 (separated, 1965); married Ingrid von Rosen, 1971 (died, 1995); children: (first marriage) Lena; (second marriage) Eva, Jan, Anna, Mats; (third marriage) Ingmar; (fourth marriage) Daniel; one other child. Education: Attended University of Stockholm.
Home—Titurelstrasse 2, D-8000 Munich 8, Germany.
Writer, director, and producer of motion pictures, teleplays, and stage productions. Director with Maaster Olofsgården, 1938-40, and student theater in Stockholm, Sweden, 1941; Svensk Filmindustri, Stockholm, 1942-69, began as scriptwriter and editor, artistic adviser, 1961-69; director of Hälsingborg city theater, 1944-46, Gothenburg city theater, 1947-52, Malmoe city theater, 1952-59, Royal Dramatic Theater, Stockholm, 1963-66, and Munich Residenz-teater, 1977-82. Founder of film production companies Cinematograph, Sweden, 1968, and Person-afilm, Munich, West Germany, 1977.
Grand Prix du Cinema, Cannes Film Festival, 1946, for Hets; São Paolo Film Festival prize, 1954, for Gycklarnas afton; comedy prize, Cannes Film Festival, 1956, for Sommarnattens leende; special award, Cannes Film Festival, 1957, and Joseph Bernstein Award for best foreign import, 1958, both for Det sjunde inseglet; Golden Bear award, International Berlin Film Festival, 1957, for Smultronstället; director's prize, Cannes Film Festival, 1958, for Nära livet; Gold Plaque, Swedish Film Academy, 1958; Academy Award for best foreign-language film, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1960, for Jungfrukällan, and 1961, for Såsom i en spegel; Erasmus Prize (Netherlands; co-recipient with Charlie Chaplin), 1965; awards for best director and for best film, National Society of Film Critics, 1967, for Persona; National Society of Film Critics award, 1968, for Skammen; Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1971; award for best director, National Society of Film Critics, 1971, for En passion; award for best screenwriter, National Society of Film Critics, and awards for best screenwriter, best director, and best film, New York Film Critics, all 1972, all for Viskningar och rop; D.Phil., Stockholm University, 1975; Goethe Prize, 1976; Great Gold Medal, Swedish Academy of Letters, 1977; best director award, New York Film Critics, 1983, and Academy Award for best foreign-language film, 1984, both for Fanny and Alexander; decorated commander, French Legion of Honor, 1985; Lillian Gish prize, 1995; Film Preservation Award, International Federation of Film Archives, 2003; numerous other film awards.
A Project for the Theatre, edited and introduced by Frederick J. Marker and Lise-Lone Marker, F. Ungar (New York, NY), 1983.
Talking with Ingmar Bergman, Southern Methodist University Press (Dallas, TX), 1984.
Laterna Magica, Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 1987, translated by Joan Tate as The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography, Viking (New York, NY), 1988.
Bilder, Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 1990, translated by Marianne Ruuth as Images: My Life in Film, Arcade (New York, NY), 1994.
Den Goda Viljan (novel), Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 1991, translated by Joan Tate as The Best Intentions, Arcade (New York, NY), 1993.
Söndagsbarn (novel), Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 1993, translated by Joan Tate as Sunday's Children, Arcade, 1994, published as Sunday's Child, Harvill (London, England), 1994.
Enskilda Samtal (novel), Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 1996, translated by Joan Tate as Private Confessions, Arcade (New York, NY), 1997.
Also author of Four Stories, 1977.
(And assistant director) Hets, Svensk Filmindustri, 1944, English-language version released as Frenzy and as Torment, 1944.
(Adapter and director) Kris (based on the play Moderdyret by Leck Fisher), Svensk Filmindustri, 1945, English-language version released as Crisis, 1946.
(Adapter, with Herbert Grevenius, and director) Det regnar på vår kärlek (based on the play Bra mennesker by Oskar Bråthen), Sveriges Folkbiografer, 1946, English-language version released as It Rains Our Love, 1946.
Kvinna utan ansikte, Svensk Filmindustri, 1947, English-language version released as Woman without a Face, 1947.
(Adapter and director) Skepp till Indialand (based on the play by Martin Söderhjelm), Sveriges Folk-biografer, 1947, English-language version released as A Ship to India and Land of Desire, 1947.
(Co-adapter and director) Hamnstad (from a story by Olle Länsberg), Svensk Filmindustri, 1948, English-language version released as Port of Call, 1948.
(Co-author) Eva, Svensk Filmindustri, 1948.
(And director) Fängelse, Terrafilm, 1949, English-language version released as Prison and as The Devil's Wanton, 1949.
(And director) Till glädje, Svensk Filmindustri, 1949, English-language version released as To Joy, 1949.
Sånt Händer inte Här, 1950.
(With Herbert Grevenius; and director) Sommarlek, Svensk Filmindustri, 1950, English-language version released as Summer Interlude and as Illicit Interlude, 1950.
(With Herbert Grevenius) Frånskild, Svensk Filmindustri, 1951, English-language version released as Divorced, 1951.
(And director) Kvinnors väntan, Svensk Filmindustri, 1952, English-language version released as Waiting Women and as Secrets of Women, 1952.
(Adapter with P. A. Fogelström, and director) Sommaren med Monika (based on a novel by Fogelström), Svensk Filmindustri, 1952.
(And director) Gycklarnas afton (title means "Sunset of the Clown"), Sandrews, 1953, English-language version released as The Naked Night and as Sawdust and Tinsel, 1953.
(And director) En lektion i kärlek, [Sweden], 1954, English-language version released as A Lesson in Love, 1954.
(And director) Kvinnodröm, Sandrews, 1955, English-language version released as Journey into Autumn and as Dreams, 1955.
(And director) Sommarnattens leende (also see below), Svensk Filmindustri, 1955, English-language version released as Smiles of a Summer Night, 1955.
(With Alf Sjöberg) Sista paret ut, Svensk Filmindustri, 1956, English-language version released as Last Couple Out, 1956.
(Adapter and director) Det sjunde inseglet (from Bergman's play, Trämalning; also see below), Svensk Filmindustri, 1956, translated by Lars Malmstrom and David Kushner as The Seventh Seal, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1960, revised edition, Lorrimer (London, England), 1984.
(And director) Smultronstället (also see below), Svensk Filmindustri, 1957, translated by Lars Malmstrom and David Kushner as Wild Strawberries, Simon & Schuster, 1960.
(With Ulla Isaksson, and director) Nära livet (also see below), Svensk Filmindustri, 1958, English-language version released as The Magician and as The Face, 1958.
(Adapter and director) Djävunes öga (adapted from a Danish radio play), Svensk Filmindustri, 1960, English-language version released as The Devil's Eye, 1960.
Four Screenplays of Ingmar Bergman, translated by Lars Malmstrom and David Kushner, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1960, published as Four Screenplays of Ingmar Bergman: Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, The Magician, [and] Wild Strawberries, 1989.
(And director) Såsom i en spegel (also see below), Svensk Filmindustri, 1961, English-language version released as Through a Glass Darkly, 1961.
(With Erland Josephson, under joint pseudonym Buntel Eriksson; and director) Lustgarden, Svensk Filmindustri, 1961, English-language version released as The Pleasure Garden, 1961.
(And director) Nattvardsgästerna (also see below), Svensk Filmindustri, 1962, English-language version released as Winter Light and as The Communicants, 1962.
(And director) Tystnaden (also see below), Svensk Filmindustri, 1963, English-language version released as The Silence, 1963.
En filmtrilogi: Såsom i en spegel, Nattvardsgästerna,Tystnaden, PAN/Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 1963, translation by Paul Britten Austin published as A Film Trilogy: Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, The Silence, Orion Press (Columbus, OH), 1967, published as Three Films by Ingmar Bergman, Grove (New York, NY), 1970, published as A Film Trilogy: Through a Glass Darkly, The Communicants (Winter Light), The Silence, Marion Boyars (New York, NY), 1988.
(With Erland Josephson, under joint pseudonym Buntel Eriksson, and director) För att inte tala om alla dessa kvinnor, Svensk Filmindustri, 1964, English-language version released as Now about These Women and as All These Women, 1968.
(And director) Persona (also see below), Svensk Filmindustri, 1966.
(And director) Vargtimmen (also see below), Svensk Filmindustri, 1968, English-language version released as The Hour of the Wolf, 1968.
(And director) Skammen (also see below), Svensk Filmindustri, 1968, English-language version released as Shame, 1968.
(And director) Riten, Svensk Filmindustri/Cinematograph, 1969, English-language version released as The Rite and as The Ritual, 1969.
En passion (also see below), Svensk Filmindustri/Cinematograph, 1969, English-language version released as A Passion and as A Passion of Anna, 1969.
(And director) Fårödokument (documentary), Cinematograph, 1969, English-language version released as Faeroe Document, 1969.
(And director) Beröringen (also see below), [Sweden], 1970, English-language version released as The Touch, Cinematography/ABC Pictures, 1970.
(Adapter and director) The Lie (television screenplay; from a play by Bergman), British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC-TV), 1972.
(And director) Viskningar och rop (also see below), Cinematograph, 1972, English-language version released as Cries and Whispers, 1972.
Persona; and Shame: The Screenplays of Ingmar Bergman, Marion Boyars (New York, NY), 1972, published as Persona and Shame: Two Screenplays, 1984.
Filmberättelser, three volumes, PAN/Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 1973.
Scener ur ett äiktenskap (originally produced for Swedish television; also see below), Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 1973, translation by Alan Blair published as Scenes from a Marriage, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1974.
(And director and coproducer) Ansikte mot ansikte (also see below), BBC-TV/Cinematograph, 1976, translation by Alan Blair published as Face to Face, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1976.
Four Stories by Ingmar Bergman: The Touch, Cries andWhispers, The Hour of the Wolf, The Passion of Anna, translation by Alan Blair, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1976.
(And director) Ormens ägg (originally released in West Germany as Das Schlangenei; English-language version produced by Paramount, 1977), Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 1977, translation by Alan Blair published as The Serpent's Egg, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1977.
Höstsonaten (originally released in West Germany as Herbstsonate; English-language version released 1978; also see below), PAN/Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 1978, translation by Alan Blair published as Autumn Sonata, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1978.
The Marriage Scenarios (contains Scenes from a Marriage, Face to Face, and Autumn Sonata), translation by Alan Blair, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1978.
(And director and narrator) Fårödokument 1979 (documentary; English-language version released as Faeroe 1979), Cinematograph, 1980.
(And director) Aus dem Leben der Marionetten, [West Germany], 1980, translation by Alan Blair published as From the Life of the Marionettes, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1980.
Fanny och Alexander (also see below; originally produced for Swedish television; English-language version released, 1981; Svensk Filminstitut, 1982), Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 1982, translation by Alan Blair published as Fanny and Alexander, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1982.
(And director) Efter en repetitionen (television screenplay; English-language version released as After the Rehearsal), Cinematograph, 1984.
(And director) Karins ansikte (title means "Karin's Face"), 1986.
(And director) Dokument Fanny och Alexander (documentary), 1986.
Den Goda viljan (title means "The Best Intentions"; television mini-series), 1991.
Söndagsbarn (title means "Sunday's Children"), 1992.
(And director) Markisinnan de Sade, 1992.
(And director) Sista skriket (title means "The Last Gasp"; teleplay), 1995.
(And director) Larmar och gör sig till (title means "In the Presence of a Clown"), 1997.
Trolösan (screenplay; English-language version released as Faithless), 2000.
Bildmakarna (television play; based on the play by Per Olov Endquist), 2000.
Saraband (teleplay), S.V.P, 2003.
Kaspers död (title means "Death of Punch"), produced 1942.
Rakel och biografvaktmästaren (title means "Rachel and the Cinema Doorman"; also see below), produced in Gothenburg, Sweden, 1945.
Jack hos skådespelarna (title means "Jack among the Actors"), Albert Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1946.
Dagen slutar tidget (title means "The Day Ends Early"; also see below), produced in Gothenburg, Sweden, 1947.
Mig till skräck . . . (title means "To My Terror"; also see below), produced in Gothenburg, Sweden, 1947.
Moraliteter (title means "Morality Plays"; contains Rakel och biografvadtmästaren, Dagen slutar tidget, and Mig till skräck), Albert Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1948.
Hets (title means "Torment"; adapted from his screenplay of the same title), produced in Oslo, Norway, 1948.
Staden (radio play; title means "The City"), first produced, 1950.
Mordet i barjärna (title means "Murder at Baryaerna"), produced in Malmoe, Sweden, 1952.
Trämålning (title means "Wood Painting: A Morality Play"), produced in Stockholm, Sweden, 1955.
Kamma noll, 1958.
(Adapter) August Strindberg, A Dream Play, translated by Michael Meyer, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1972.
Scenes from a Marriage (adapted from his screenplay), produced in Munich, West Germany, 1981, adaptation with Rita Russek produced in London, England, 1990.
Also author of unproduced plays, including Resamrater (title means "Travel Companions"), Stationen (title means "Station"), De Ensamma (title means "Lonely Ones"), Trivolet (title means "The Fun Fair"), Fullmanen (title means "Full Moon"), Dimman (title means "The Fog"), and Om en mördare (title means "About a Murder").
Contributor of essays to numerous film journals and periodicals, including Cinemathek, Svenska radiopjäser, Biografbladet, Tulane Drama Review, and (under pseudonym Ernest Riffe), Chaplin.
Bergman's archives are housed at the Swedish Film Institute.
One of the most noted filmmakers of the twentieth century, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman has imbued his work with the concerns, fears, and hopes of his own life. "Films would seem to be the most personal part of Bergman's life," asserted John Osborne in a discussion of Bergman's creative output for the New York Review of Books. "Certainly his personal life is openly reflected in them." As in his movies, Bergman's 1988 autobiography, The Magic Lantern, reveals the importance of this link while also employing a highly subjective writing technique similar to the style he uses in many of his screenplays. "The Magic Lantern is constructed much like a Bergman film," acknowledged London Times contributor David Thompson; "real memories [are] intermingled with fantasized encounters and flashes forward to the last few years" of the director's own life. This stylistic approach led Time reviewer Richard Schickel to call The Magic Lantern "one of the finest self-portraits of an artist written in our time." What "Bergman is [also] saying," added Schickel, "is that however acutely his art reflected his sense of life, it was much more important to him as a refuge from life. It was the place where he could at least briefly impose order on life's terrible confusions, find for himself a sustaining moment of peace and grace."
An Unhappy Child
An unhappy, sickly child, Bergman was the son of a Lutheran pastor to the Swedish royal court. His mother subscribed to strict ideals of child-rearing: discipline, devotion, fear of God, and dispassionately delivered, humiliating punishment. It was not uncommon for the Bergmans to lock one of their children in a "prayer closet," and Bergman was once made to wear a dress in atonement for disobedience. The director once remarked that his greatest pleasures as a child were performing with his puppet theater, playing with his magic lantern—a primitive slide projector and an ancestor of the motion picture camera—and exploring his grandmother's spacious apartment in Uppsala. Each of these activities provided an imaginative escape from an otherwise dour routine. The psychological effects of the ostensibly abusive treatment he received during childhood made a strong impression on Bergman, and for this reason the film director "never—presumably could not—shut the window to his childhood," noted Lloyd Rose in the Voice Literary Supplement.
In the summer of 1934, Bergman traveled to Germany as an exchange student and lived with a family near Weimar. His hosts, like his friends and most Germans at the time, were ardent supporters of Nazi leader Adolph Hitler. Bergman later admitted that as a teenager he idolized Hitler, and that he and his family supported the Nazis for a number of years, even during World War II, until he was confronted with the shocking truth of the Nazi concentration camps. This realization led the young Bergman to feel "despair" and "self-contempt," as he reveals in his autobiography. Ultimately, while a student at the University of Stockholm, he finally found a release from such frustrations in the writings of Swedish playwright and novelist August Strindberg. As quoted by Charles Champlin in the Los Angeles Times, Bergman said that Strindberg "expressed things I'd experienced and which I couldn't find words for." The expressionistic style of Strindberg's writing would have a profound influence on the director's work.
During his time at the University of Stockholm, Bergman became involved with the school's theater group. His first major directorial effort, a 1940 college staging of Macbeth, led to a job with Sweden's Royal Opera House in 1942. "From a strictly professional point of view," admits Bergman in his autobiography, "my years as a theatre director were wasted." The plays he wrote for the stage never achieved the acclaim accorded his films, and remain relatively unknown. "Yet," Champlin asserted, "it's obvious that his writing for the theatre was an immensely useful preparation for the kind of intimate, intense drama of characters and relationships that Bergman was to write for the screen." Arlene Croce declared in Commonweal that the filmmaker "has in fact created a theater of the film."
Enters the Film Industry
Bergman began his film career in 1943, when he left college for a position with Svensk Filmindustri. According to Peter Harcourt in his Six European Directors: Essays on the Meaning of Style, "the problems of loneliness, humiliation, and of the essential isolation of the human spirit" dominated the director's work after that time. Film Quarterly critic Eugene Archer wrote that Bergman's "early films [are] strange, exceedingly personal, and deeply provocative, sometimes deriving from the Protestant environment of his own childhood." Works like Torment and Summer with Monika are "dramas of adolescent revolt," continued Archer. They also project Bergman's early pessimistic view of human nature, as well as his "preoccupation with youth and the vulnerability of innocence," remarked Ingmar Bergman author Robin Wood. For example, in Torment a student is abused by a sadistic teacher who, it is later revealed, murdered the student's girlfriend. The film ends with the boy forsaking society to become an outcast. A similar ending occurs in Summer with Monika, in which a young boy and girl become lovers and leave the city for the northern woods of Sweden. "Bergman's youthful pessimism is climaxed by Fängelse (Prison)," observed Archer, "which depicts modern life as a total hell from which there can be no salvation because man has lost the ability to believe in God."
The films of Bergman's early period are not all pessimistic. Smile of a Summer Night, in Archer's appraisal, is "a delightful comedy of manners in the tradition of the French boudoir farce." However, the critic also noted that, like most of the director's movies, it "is subject to a dual interpretation, and an underlying serious meaning is readily apparent." The comedic aspects of the film are balanced by themes concerning the loss of love, frustration, and humiliation. The Naked Night, a much more gloomy film about a couple's loss of dignity in their search for reconciliation, echoes themes presented in Smiles of a Summer Night. These two completely different films also share in common the "analysis of the human condition, of man's attitude toward the great abstract questions," according to Jörn Donner in his The Personal Vision of Ingmar Bergman.
Several of Bergman's first films drew praise from critics, and according to Archer 1950's Summer Interlude was the point at which the filmmaker "attained complete maturity as a director." The movie focuses on a summer romance overshadowed by a sense of disaster. Bergman's films after Summer Interlude, according to Archer, "are, without exception, masterful in their evocations of mood and movement, the principle ingredients of cinematic style." However, in his book Cinema Eye, Cinema Ear: Some Key FilmMakers of the Sixties, John Russell Taylor argued that Prison is really the director's first early significant work. The film "has all the marks of a key work in his career," Taylor opined, "wildly bundling together any number of themes which are to recur later. . . . Moreover, it is the first of Bergman's films which demonstrate any real desire . . . to experiment with the medium, to use it positively as a means of expression in itself, rather than recording with competence but no special aptitude." Taylor also argued that Smiles of a Summer Night is important in that "for the first time, and virtually for the last, all Bergman's diverse talents [are seen] together in a single film."
Wins International Acclaim
Despite the quality of these productions, Bergman did not receive significant international recognition until the release of his 1956 film The Seventh Seal. By
this time the director had gathered about him the small troupe of actors and behind-the-scenes staff who would regularly work with him throughout his career, often filming at Bergman's favorite location, the Faeroe Islands north of Great Britain. Liv Ullmann, Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, and Harriet Andersson often appear as stars in Bergman's films; Bergman also relied on the talents of photography directors Sven Nykvist and Gunnar Fisher for thirty-two of his films. With this capable staff, and with the enthusiastic support of Svensk Filmindustri, Bergman began a new phase in his career with The Seventh Seal that is notable for its artistic freedom. The Seventh Seal and a number of the films that followed it also delineate a period that is dominated by one theme: mankind's search for God.
Bergman's preoccupation with this theme goes back to his childhood and the strict Protestant indoctrination he received from his father. Bergman "absorbed his [father's] chill upbringing into his marrow," attested Rose. "There's never been a director . . . more Protestant. Carried to its (theo)logical extreme, Protestantism is as absurd as something out of [Samuel] Beckett. It completely jettisons cause and effect. God may save you or He may damn you, but your actions have nothing to do with it . . . and if God—by an act of divine judgement totally beyond your comprehension—decides to let you burn, tough luck. As a director, Bergman is often accused of being mysterious and indecipherable. At least he comes by it honestly."
In The Seventh Seal Bergman's search for God comes to life in a medieval knight's quest for meaning after participating in the Crusades. "The film," explained Birgitta Steene in Scandinavian Studies, "illustrates [the] gradual alienation of man from God by depicting in the crusader a human being at first engaged in a holy enterprise but at last willing to sell his soul to the Devil—could he only find him! For the Devil, he argues with insane logic, must know God since he only exists in opposition to God." But the knight's doubts are not the characteristic concerns of a medieval man, according to Steene, who noted that Bergman's protagonist "is closer to a modern skeptic whose burning need of faith cannot be fulfilled because he refuses to accept a god who does not give intellectual proof of his existence."
Some reviewers criticized Bergman's presentation of modern concerns within a medieval motif. Encounter contributor Caroline Blackwood, for example, objected to the filmmaker's use of "all the old morbid medieval metaphors which formed the staple fare of silent German movies of the twenties." Blackwood also found it difficult "to see anything very 'illuminating' in Bergman monotonously repeating that all knowledge and learning are instruments of the Devil." Many other reviewers shared the sentiment of Peter Cowie in Sweden Two: The Seventh Seal is a "triumphant blend of literary antecedent and visual metaphor that makes [it] such a profound and ambitious film, unequaled in the Swedish cinema as an exercise in tempered expressionism."
Another accomplishment of The Seventh Seal, maintained Steene, is that it "sets up a dichotomy, which is to remain a basic one in Bergman's production, between a god who is a silent monster and torturer of man, and a god who is a lover of life." Several of Bergman's subsequent films express one side or the other of this dichotomy. Wild Strawberries, for example, represents "the culmination and fulfillment of the Christian side of Bergman," according to Wood, for "the presence of a benevolent deity seems to permeate the film." Although Wild Strawberries is not as overtly religious as The Seventh Seal, a positive message about God's presence is expressed when the protagonist, Isak Borg, is made to realize through a series of dreams that he has been a cold and heartless person. Seeing the error of his ways, Isak decides to return home and asks his parents to forgive him for neglecting them. "It is significant that the Bergman film embodying the Christian virtues of love, forgiveness, humility, should be centrally concerned with forgiveness between parents and children," noted Wood, who concluded that "Borg's relationship to Bergman himself is obvious."
Another production with a positive affirmation of God is Through a Glass Darkly, in which the director clearly presents God as a god of love. This "intensely personal work," as Cowie dubbed it in Films and Filming, concerns a self-involved father and the lack of communication he has with his children. By film's end there is a reconciliation between father and son when the father asserts that God is love. Symbolically, this conclusion is significant because, as Steene pointed out, "from the children's point of view the father has become connected, if not identified with their image of God." Although critics like Wood have considered Through a Glass Darkly to be an "extremely important" film in the director's body of work, the reviewer also believed it to be "extremely unsatisfactory." The movie's conclusion, Wood elaborated, "is beyond question the worst ending in mature Bergman" because "the consistent undermining of the father throughout the film suggests Bergman's lack of confidence in his last words. They are indeed mere words." Nevertheless, Through a Glass Darkly is significant since, as Harcourt suggested,
it marks the beginning of a period in the director's career in which he attempts to bring his audience "closer to fewer and fewer people, perhaps with deliberate ambition to 'illuminate the human soul.'"
As in Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light involves a father-child relationship; but it also extrapolates the situation by involving characters outside the family. In this case, minister Tomas Ericsson is unable to prevent the suicide of a fisherman because his parents' inability to show Tomas affection has left him incapable of showing love for others. Again, the parents in the film represent God; and Tomas's failure to communicate with God causes him to isolate himself from others. There is, however, some hope in Winter Light, as Tomas resolves to cling to his religious faith despite his tenuous belief in God. However, in Bergman's The Silence—originally titled God's Silence—God's presence is completely abrogated. Unlike Through a Glass Darkly and Winter Light, the father in The Silence is dead when the plot begins. Bergman examines the consequences of the father's—i.e., God's—total absence through the use of language, which is "related to Bergman's religious questioning and his portrayal of the father-child relationship," according to Steene in Cinema Journal. "When God dies away," Steene concluded, "language loses its communicative and healing power." The film illustrates this theme by isolating its characters—two sisters and their nephew—in a country whose people speak a language they do not understand. The final scene underlines the theme when one of the character's efforts to read a list of translations is drowned out by the noise of a passing train.
With the completion of The Silence Bergman dropped his obsession with theology, considering his films on the subject "bogus," according to Roger Manvell in the International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. By this time, surmised Schickel in Life, "Bergman has . . . accepted [God's] death and, indeed, seems to find that event no longer worthy of comment. His absence is now simply one of the terms of our existence." With the trilogy comprised of Persona, The Hour of the Wolf, and Shame, the director focuses on another of his favorite subjects: the artistic character. Compared to Bergman's films about God, Stanley Kauffman described Persona in his Figures of Light: Film Criticism and Comment as "a successful work of art," the early trilogy being "masterfully made, but introspectively remote rather than dramatized."
Persona is about an actress who suddenly, inexplicably refuses to speak. All attempts by her nurse to encourage the actress to speak fail; but the experience results in the nurse's realization that she, like the actress, has been wearing a mask which conceals her true self. Vernon Young, author of Cinema Borealis: Ingmar Bergman and the Swedish Ethos, was somewhat less enthusiastic about Persona than was Kauffman, comparing its artistic value to that of The Hour of the Wolf. "Any expectation that Persona was more than a skirmish in [Bergman's] inconclusive battle with the duplicity of the artist was certainly frustrated by The Hour of the Wolf," Young remarked, going on to describe the film as "pure dementia . . . in it Bergman explores nothing; this is wholly a disintegration product, replying to no serious question." In The Hour of the Wolf an artist is plagued by
demons; whether the demons are real or not is never explained, nor is any reason given for the artist's torture. Because nothing is fully explained, reviewers such as Young found the movie too obscure. In contrast, Film Quarterly contributor Ernest Callenbach joined several critics in praising Bergman for being "personally brave in the sense of being willing to work with dangerous psychic material."
Reviews of Shame were generally much more positive than those for The Hour of the Wolf. This time, Bergman places two artists in the middle of a war and describes their futile efforts to remain neutral for the sake of their art. Shame stirred some controversy among Bergman's compatriots, who viewed the film as a sarcastic comment on Sweden's neutrality during both world wars. Still, a number of critics praised the film for its unique view on warfare. "Shame is in fact quite remarkable among war films," attested Callenbach, "and takes its place among a tiny honorable handful that may be considered genuinely antiwar." Wood offered even higher tribute, calling Shame "Bergman's masterpiece to date and one of the greatest films" of the 1960s.
Explores Man-Woman Relationships
An important element in Bergman's films has always been the role of his female characters, who, explained Film Quarterly contributor Joan Mellen, "sometimes serve Bergman to express his agony over our ultimate inability to derive meaning from life." Beginning with A Passion, women have played an increasingly important part in his films. "It wasn't until A Passion that I really got to grips with the man-woman relationship," Bergman was quoted as saying in Manvell's essay, the director adding that his more recent films illustrate his "ceaseless fascination with the whole race of women." In addition to his use of expressionism, this is an aspect of Bergman's work that bears an affinity with Strindberg's. But whereas Strindberg became bitter after his second divorce, Bergman's divorces have not changed his views about women. The works of Strindberg and Bergman "differ markedly in tone," observed Champlin: "Bergman usually compassionate, however candid in his depictions, Strindberg more often misogynistic."
Two films that explore the institution of marriage are A Passion and Scenes from a Marriage. One of Bergman's most experimental works in terms of photography, the use of color, and the manner in which he interrupts the film with interpretive narratives by the actors, A Passion delves into the relationships of two men and two women who are isolated on an island. When they become involved in one another's lives their fears and insecurities are revealed. Harcourt believed that, up to this point in the filmmaker's career, A Passion was the most complete movie involving "the essential isolation of the human spirit." Several critics, such as Schickel, felt that in this film "the art of Ingmar Bergman reaches its pinnacle. Though it is one of his rare color films, it is in every important way his most austere and elliptical work, a thing of silences and enigmas that nevertheless makes very clear the tragic vision of life that possesses its author." Scenes from a Marriage also deals with man-woman relationships. Perhaps because it was originally made for television, some reviewers have complained that it has a soap-opera quality that, as Esquire contributor John Simon reported, makes it "too commonplace." Disagreeing with this opinion, Simon averred that the married couple in the film "are not platitudes; they are encyclopedias" meant to represent all of us. Film Quarterly contributor Marsha Kinder was also enthusiastic about Scenes from a Marriage, calling it "emotional dynamite." The movie, Kinder concluded, achieves "a depth of characterization previously thought possible only in the novel."
With Cries and Whispers, a movie about the relationships between four women, Bergman examines the nature of women in the greatest depth yet. According to Massachusetts Review contributor Julian C. Rice, the director "defines his principal theme [in Cries and Whispers] as a concern with the 'wholeness inside every human being.' This 'wholeness' is the basis upon which relationships with other human beings are formed." But some critics, like Mellen, objected to the film's portrayal of women, claiming that Bergman "provides one of the most retrograde portrayals of women on the contemporary screen." Other reviewers, however, argued that such an interpretation misses the point of the film. In Salmagundi Robert Boyers remarked that the suffering of Bergman's female characters in Cries and Whispers is not indicative of any misogynistic feelings on the director's part. Bergman, wrote Boyers, no more punishes women "than he punishes men who are cold and all but indifferent to their functions as integrated human beings." Robert E. Lauder similarly asserted in Christian Century that "the truth of the matter is that the filmmaker is involved in a love-hate relationship with women and men—and indeed with himself." As quoted by Times Literary Supplement critic S. S. Prawer, Bergman explained that Cries and Whispers should be viewed as "a first attempt at circumscribing the image I have of my mother. . . . Mama was the overwhelming experience of my childhood."
The conclusion of Cries and Whispers foreshadows the optimism of Bergman's subsequent film, Face to Face. "Cries and Whispers," remarked Rice, "suggests that wholeness and communication are indeed possible, if only for fleeting redemptive moments." However, according to Lauder, in Face to Face there is a "clear presence of hope."
Unfortunately, any optimism appearing in Bergman's works after Cries and Whispers was squelched for a time when the director suffered the greatest humiliation of his life. Having entrusted his finances to dishonest advisers, in 1976 the filmmaker unwittingly found himself the subject of a tax scandal that led to a nervous breakdown. Eventually cleared of criminal charges, Bergman nevertheless exiled himself to West Germany, where he filmed his nightmarishly violent and skeptical film about pre-Hitler Germany, The Serpent's Egg. The film was an immense critical failure, however, largely due to its overly grim nature and because the political statement it makes demonstrates, as Film Quarterly contributor Ronald S. Librach noted, that politics is not "Bergman's strongest intellectual suit."
After the cathartic The Serpent's Egg, Bergman resumed his previous creative course with Autumn Sonata and From the Life of the Marionettes, produced in Norway and West Germany respectively. These films revisit the director's concern with interpersonal relationships, while focusing on "very few characters in an elementary situation," according to Gilberto Perez in a New York Arts Journal review of Autumn Sonata. "Bergman," Perez further commented, "feels he's getting down to the essential of the human condition" by limiting the scope of these productions. With the completion of these movies, the filmmaker decided to return to his homeland, where he filmed what he vowed would be his last motion picture for the screen. The result was Bergman's longest movie yet, Fanny and Alexander, a three-hour-long multigenerational work that contains virtually all of the themes expressed in the director's oeuvre.
Fanny and Alexander, according to Bergman in a New York Times article by Michiko Kakutani, represents "the sum total of my life as a filmmaker." According to Kakutani, the film "is at once a nostalgic re-invention of the director's own childhood and a mature summation of his work. All the familiar Bergman themes and motifs are here—the humiliation of the artist, the hell and paradise of marriage, the quest for love and faith—but they are infused, this time, with a new tenderness and compassion. . . . Bergman seems to have achieved a measure of distance from and acceptance of his own past." New York Times critic Vincent Canby also recognized this uncharacteristic mood, calling it "something that, in Bergman, might pass for serenity." Among critics, Fanny and Alexander was generally well received, although a few, like Washington Post reviewer Gary Arnold, felt that "the movie has a text that tends to ramble and gush . . . and the host's powers of invention frequently go on the fritz." Los Angeles Times contributor Sheila Benson, however, wrote that the film is "so lavish, so detailed and so satisfying that we want it to go on forever."
Fears that Bergman's career had come to an end with Fanny and Alexander were soon dispelled with the release of his short television drama After the Rehearsal. The filmmaker's next project, The Best Intentions, was also made for television and, although written by Bergman, was directed by Danish filmmaker Bille August. The movie focuses on the ten years of Bergman's parents' marriage leading up to Bergman's birth. With Best Intentions Bergman portrays his parents with more sympathy than ever before. "Until I wrote this manuscript," the dramatist explained to Steve Lohr of the New York Times, "I never really knew how complicated their lives were. . . . We always regret that we did not ask our parents more, really get to know them while they were alive." "If [this] sounds like a belated reconciliation with his parents," remarked Lohr, "it may be. But Mr. Bergman is at pains to emphasize to anyone listening that he has perhaps mellowed with age, but that the inner turmoil that has been a hallmark of both the man and the artist is still intact. 'The anger and the creativity are so closely intertwined with me,' he said. 'And there's plenty of anger left.'"
Whereas the autobiography The Magic Lantern deals primarily with the particulars of Bergman's life, Images: My Life in Film deals directly with his films. In it, drawing on notebooks, plot summaries, and at times quoting at length from The Magic Lantern and other previously published work, Bergman discusses all forty-five of his films. The book is arranged thematically rather than chronologically, a fact that several reviewers found confusing. "The text," according to Washington Post reviewer Adam Hochschild, "is a curious, unsatisfying mishmash." Any confusion is mollified somewhat by an extensive and detailed filmography of Bergman's work. Also included are over one hundred pages of photographs from Bergman's films, which Michael Meyer in the New York Review of Books described as "perhaps the book's most valuable feature."
Images is not written by Bergman; rather it consists of the transcription of sixty hours of interviews with
Bergman conducted by film critic Lasse Bergstrom. Bergstrom subsequently deleted his own questions, edited and reorganized the text, and submitted it to Bergman for final approval. As Hochschild noted: "Bergman the painstaking craftsman—as much so with words as with film—would never have produced something so rambling and uneven." Although most critics might agree with the negative aspects of Hochschild's assessment, they also agreed that there is much that is worthwhile in Images. Philip French in the Observer Review noted that the book provides interesting background on Bergman's successful relationships with his actors and went on to state that the director's "students and admirers will find this superbly illustrated book fascinating, for the revelations of his sources (mostly dreams and childhood memories), the accounts of his working process, and the painful honesty." Despite his criticisms, Hochschild agreed that Images "does let slip some clues to Bergman's astounding creativity," and "nearly every page reveals . . . his intense loyalty to his actors."
Discussing a 1996 retrospective of Bergman's films at Chicago's Film Center, Michael Wilmington concluded in the Chicago Tribune that the then-seventy-eight-year-old Swedish director "remains a powerful cinematic presence . . . because even though he no longer directs films, he still writes them." In "his twilight years," Wilmington added, the director's life has come to resemble that of his alter-ego from the film Wild Strawberries, the "dreamy old man" Isak Borg. "As in those marvelous closing scenes of Wild Strawberries, he makes you weep, smile. Like all great artists, his store of pain and joy—right to the end—seems rich, deep and inexhaustible."
If you enjoy the works of Ingmar Bergman
If you enjoy the works of Ingmar Bergman, you may also want to check out the following films:
Ikiru, written and directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1952.
8 1/2, written and directed by Federico Fellini, 1963.
The Crucible, based on the play by Arthur Miller, 1996.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Bergman, Ingmar, The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography, Viking (New York, NY), 1988.
Bergman, Ingmar, Images: My Life in Film, Arcade (New York, NY), 1994.
Björkman, Stig, Torsten Manns, and Jonas Sima, editors, Bergman on Bergman: Interviews with Ingmar Bergman, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1973.
Blackwell, Marilyn Johns, Gender and Representation in the Films of Ingmar Bergman, Camden House, 1997.
Blake, R. A., Lutheran Milieu of Films of Ingmar Bergman, Arno Press (New York, NY), 1978.
Cohen, Hubert I., Ingmar Bergman: The Art of Confession, Twayne (New York, NY), 1993.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 16, 1981, Volume 72, 1992.
Cowie, Peter, Sweden 2, A. S. Barnes, 1970.
Cowie, Peter, Ingmar Bergman: A Critical Biography, Scribner (New York, NY), 1982.
Donner, Jörn, The Personal Vision of Ingmar Bergman, Indiana University Press, 1964.
Donner, Jörn, The Films of Ingmar Bergman, Dover (Mineola, NY), 1972.
Gado, Frank, The Passion of Ingmar Bergman, Duke University Press, 1986.
Garfinkel, Bernie, Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman, Berkley (New York, NY), 1976.
Gervais, Marc, Ingmar Bergman: Magician and Prophet, McGill-Queens University Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.
Gibson, Arthur, The Silence of God: Creative Response to the Films of Ingmar Bergman, Harper (New York, NY), 1969.
Harcourt, Peter, Six European Directors: Essays on the Meaning of Film Style, Penguin (New York, NY), 1974.
International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Jones, G. William, editor, Talking with Ingmar Bergman, Southern Methodist University Press (Dallas, TX), 1983.
Kael, Pauline, Reeling, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1976.
Kalin, Jesse, and Ray Carney, editors, The Films of Ingmar Bergman, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Kaminsky, Stuart M., and Joseph F. Hill, editors, Ingmar Bergman: Essays in Criticism, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1975.
Kauffman, Stanley, Figures of Light: Film Criticism and Comment, Harper (New York, NY), 1971.
Ketcham, Charles B., The Influence of Existentialism on Ingmar Bergman, Edwin Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY), 1986.
Lauder, Robert E., God, Death, Art, and Love: The Philosophical Vision of Ingmar Bergman, Paulist Press, 1989.
Livingston, Paisley, Ingmar Bergman and the Rituals of Art, Cornell University Press, 1982.
Long, Robert Emmet, Ingmar Bergman: Film and Stage, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 1994.
Marker, Frederick J., Lise-Lone Marker, and Christopher Innes, editors, Ingmar Bergman: Four Decades in the Theater, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1982.
Marker, Frederick J., Ingmar Bergman: A Life in the Theatre, 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1992.
Michaels, Lloyd, and Horton Andrew, editors, Ingmar Bergman's Persona, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Mosley, Philip, Ingmar Bergman: The Cinema as Mistress, Marion Boyars (New York, NY), 1984.
Newsmakers, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Oliver, Roger W., editor, Ingmar Bergman: An Artist's Journey on Stage, on Screen, in Print, Arcade (New York, NY), 1995.
Petric, Vlada, editor, Film and Dreams: An Approach to Bergman, Redgrave (South Salem, NY), 1981.
Schickel, Richard, Second Sight: Notes on Some Movies, 1965-1970, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1972.
Simon, John, Ingmar Bergman Directs, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1972.
Slayton, Ralph Emil, Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal": A Criticism, University Microfilms (Ann Arbor, MI), 1973.
Sontag, Susan, Styles of Radical Will, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1969.
Steene, Birgitta, Ingmar Bergman, Twayne (New York, NY), 1968.
Steene, Birgitta, Ingmar Bergman: A Guide to References and Resources, G. K. Hall (New York, NY), 1987.
Taylor, John Russell, Cinema Eye, Cinema Ear: Some Key Film Makers of the Sixties, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1964.
Vermilye, Jerry, Ingmar Bergman: His Life and Films, McFarland, 2002.
Wood, Robin, Ingmar Bergman, Praeger (New York, NY), 1969.
Young, Vernon, Cinema Borealis: Ingmar Bergman and the Swedish Ethos, David Lewis, 1971.
America, January 24, 1976.
American Cinematographer, October, 1962, Sven Nykvist, "Photographing the Films of Ingmar Bergman."
American Film, June, 1983, T. McLean, "Knocking on Heaven's Door"; March, 1984, "Dialogue on Film: Sven Nykvist." Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Volume 6, number 1, 1997, M. Koskinen, "'Everything Represents, Nothing Is': Some Relations between Ingmar Bergman's Films and Theatre Productions." Chicago Tribune, February 20, 1981; July 5, 1983; September 11, 1988; January 18, 1996, sec. 5, p. A9; January 28, 1996, sec. 7, p. 1.
Christian Century, October 27, 1976.
Cinema Journal, fall, 1970.
Commonweal, March 11, 1960.
Cue, December 28, 1968.
Encounter, April, 1961.
Esquire, January, 1975.
Film Comment, May-June, 1983, Richard Corliss and W. Wolf, "God, Sex, and Ingmar Bergman"; May-June, 1995, Kathleen Murphy, "A Clean, Well-lighted Place: Ingmar Bergman's Dollhouse." Film Literature Quarterly, spring, 1980.
Film Quarterly, summer, 1959, Eugene Archer, "The Rack of Life"; summer, 1968; fall, 1969; fall, 1973; winter, 1974-75; winter, 1983-84, D. Boyd, "Persona and the Cinema of Representation." Films & Filming, January, 1963.
Film Society Review, January, 1972.
Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), August 23, 1986.
Life, April 26, 1968.
Listener, April 5, 1979.
Los Angeles Times, January 15, 1974; June 29, 1983; June 20, 1984; September 16, 1987; September 18, 1988.
Massachusetts Review, winter, 1975.
Moviemaker, May-July, 1997, R. Thompson, "Bergman's Women." New Statesman, October 22, 1993, p. 40.
Newsweek, November 24, 1975; April 12, 1976; September 26, 1988.
New York, April 12, 1976.
New York Arts Journal, number 13, 1979.
New Yorker, May 17, 1993, John Lahr, "Ingmar's Woman." New York Review of Books, October 27, 1988; June 9, 1994, p. 17.
New York Times, January 22, 1978, Edith Sorel, "Ingmar Bergman: 'I Confect Dreams and Anguish'"; January 27, 1978; June 17, 1983; July 3, 1983; June 21, 1984; September 7, 1988; September 6, 1989, S. Lohr, "For Bergman, a New Twist on an Old Love"; May 23, 1993, C. James, "Scenes from a Chilly Marriage"; April 30, 1995, Alan Riding, "Face to Face with a Life of Creation: At 76, the Eminent Director Ingmar Bergman Seems Even to Have His Demons under Control," section 2, pp. 1, 30; May 5, 1995, Caryn James, "Sweden's Poet of Film and Stagecraft," pp. C1, C20; June 18, 1995, Margo Jefferson, "Bergman Conquers, Not Once but Twice." New York Times Book Review, February 21, 1965; August 4, 1974; September 18, 1988; May 23, 1993, p. 7; January 30, 1994, p. 7; March 27, 1994, p. 10; January 12, 1997, p. 11. New York Times Magazine, December 7, 1975. Observer Review, March 27, 1994, p. 21. Performing Arts Journal, January, 1992, Roger W. Oliver, "Bergman's Trilogy: Tradition and Innovation." Quarterly Review of Film Studies, February, 1977.
Salmagundi, winter, 1978.
Scandinavian Studies, February, 1965; summer, 1977, Fritz Sammern-Frankenegg, "Learning 'A Few Words in the Foreign Language': Ingmar Bergman's 'Secret Message' in the Imagery of Hand and Face."
Sight and Sound, winter, 1962-63; summer, 1965; autumn, 1965, Frederic Fleisher, "Ants in a Snake-skin"; summer, 1978; summer, 1982, Peter Cowie, "Bergman at Home."
Spectator, June 4, 1988; February 19, 1994, pp. 26-27.
Take One, March-April, 1972.
Time, November 13, 1972; April 12, 1976; January 30, 1978; September 26, 1988.
Times (London, England), July 6, 1983; May 19, 1988; June 24, 1989.
Times Literary Supplement, September 26, 1969; February 28, 1975; June 24, 1977; June 17, 1988.
Tulane Drama Review, December, 1960.
Variety, June 23, 2003, Charles Isherwood, "Bergman Bids Adieu with Radical 'Ghosts,'" p. 32.
Voice Literary Supplement, March, 1989.
Washington Post, June 30, 1983; July 1, 1983; August 22, 1984; August 24, 1984; July 9, 1995, p. G4.
Washington Post Book World, September 25, 1988; February 13, 1994, p. 5.
Books and Writers,http:/www.kirjasto.sci.fi/ (2003), "Ingmar Bergman."
Strictly Film School,http://www.filmref.com/ (April 6, 2004), "Ingmar Bergman."*
Nationality: Swedish. Born: Ernst Ingmar Bergman in Uppsala, Sweden, 14 July 1918. Education: Palmgrens School, Stockholm, and Stockholm University, 1938–40. Family: Married 1) Else Fisher, 1943 (divorced 1945), one daughter; 2) Ellen Lundström, 1945 (divorced 1950), two sons, two daughters; 3) Gun Grut, 1951, one son; 4) Käbi Laretei, 1959 (separated 1965), one son; 5) Ingrid von Rosen, 1971 (died 1995). Also one daughter by actress Liv Ullmann. Career: Joined Svensk Filmindustri as scriptwriter, 1943; director of Helsingborg City Theatre, 1944; directed first film, Kris, 1946; began association with producer Lorens Marmstedt, and with Gothenburg Civic Theatre, 1946; began association with cinematographer Gunnar Fischer, 1948; director, Municipal Theatre, Malmo, 1952–58; began associations with Bibi Andersson and Max von Sydow, 1955; began association with cinematographer Sven Nykvist, 1959; became artistic advisor at Svensk Filmindustri, 1961; head of Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm, 1963–66; settled on island of Faro, 1966; established Cinematograph production company, 1968; moved to Munich, following arrest on alleged tax offences and subsequent breakdown, 1976; formed Personafilm production company, 1977; director at Munich Residenzteater, 1977–82; returned to Sweden, 1978; announced retirement from filmmaking, following Fanny and Alexander, 1982; directed These Blessed Two for Swedish television, 1985; concentrated on directing for the theater, 1985; Film Society of Lincoln Center presented a retrospective of almost all of Bergman's films as director, 1995; Brooklyn Academy of Music honored Bergman with a four-month-long Bergman Festival, 1995; The Museum of Television & Radio honored Bergman with a retrospective titled "Ingmar Bergman In Close-Up: The Television Work," 1995. Awards: Golden Bear, Berlin Festival, for Wild Strawberries, 1958; Gold Plaque, Swedish Film Academy, 1958; Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, The Virgin Spring (1961), Through a Glass Darkly (1962), and Fanny and Alexander (1983); Oscar nominations, Best Director, for Cries and Whispers (1973), Face to Face (1976), and Fanny and Alexander (1983); Oscar nominations, Best Screenplay, for Wild Strawberries (1958), Through a Glass Darkly (1962), Cries and Whispers (1973), Face to Face (1976), and Fanny and Alexander (1983); co-winner of International Critics Prize, Venice Film Festival, for Fanny and Alexander; Erasmus Prize (shared with Charles Chaplin), Netherlands, 1965; Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, 1970; Order of the Yugoslav Flag, 1971; Luigi Pirandello International Theatre Prize, 1971; honorary doctorate of philosophy, Stockholm University, 1975; Gold Medal of Swedish Academy, 1977; European Film Award, 1988; Le Prix Sonning, 1989; Praemium Imperiale Prize, 1991.
Films as Director:
Kris (Crisis) (+ sc); Det regnar på vår kärlek (It Rains on OurLove; The Man with an Umbrella) (+ co-sc)
Skepp till Indialand (A Ship Bound for India; The Land ofDesire) (+ sc)
Musik i mörker (Music in Darkness; Night Is My Future); Hamnstad (Port of Call) (+ co-sc)
Fängelse (Prison; The Devil's Wanton) (+ sc); Törst (Thirst; Three Strange Loves)
Till glädje (To Joy) (+ sc); Sånt händer inte här (HighTension; This Doesn't Happen Here)
Sommarlek (Summer Interlude; Illicit Interlude) (+ co-sc)
Kvinnors väntan (Secrets of Women; Waiting Women) (+ sc)
Sommaren med Monika (Monika; Summer with Monika) (+ co-sc); Gycklarnas afton (The Naked Night; Sawdustand Tinsel) (+ sc)
En lektion i kärlek (A Lesson in Love) (+ sc)
Kvinnodröm (Dreams; Journey into Autumn) (+ sc); Sommarnattens leende (Smiles of a Summer Night) (+ sc)
Det sjunde inseglet (The Seventh Seal) (+ sc); Smultronstället (Wild Strawberries) (+ sc)
Nära livet (Brink of Life; So Close to Life) (+ co-sc); Ansiktet (The Magician; The Face) (+ sc)
Jungfrukällen (The Virgin Spring); Djävulens öga (The Devil'sEye) (+ sc)
Såsom i en spegel (Through a Glass Darkly) (+ sc)
Nattvardsgästerna (Winter Light) (+ sc); Tystnaden (TheSilence) (+ sc)
För att inte tala om alla dessa kvinnor (All These Women; Now about These Women) (+ co-sc under pseudonym "Buntel Eriksson")
Persona (+ sc)
"Daniel" episode of Stimulantia (+ sc, ph)
Vargtimmen (Hour of the Wolf) (+ sc); Skammen (Shame; TheShame) (+ sc)
Riten (The Ritual; The Rite) (+ sc); En passion (The Passion ofAnna; A Passion) (+ sc); Fårö-dokument (The Fårö Document) (+ sc)
Beröringen (The Touch) (+ sc)
Viskningar och rop (Cries and Whispers) (+ sc); Scener ur ettäktenskap (Scenes from a Marriage) (+ sc, + narration, voice of the photographer) in six episodes: "Oskuld och panik (Innocence and Panic)"; "Kunsten att sopa unter mattan (The Art of Papering over Cracks)"; "Paula"; "Tåredalen (The Vale of Tears)"; "Analfabeterna (The Illiterates)"; "Mitt i natten i ett mörkt hus någonstans i världen (In the Middle of the Night in a Dark House Somewhere in the World)" (shown theatrically in shortened version of 168 minutes)
Das Schlangenei (The Serpent's Egg; Ormens ägg) (+ sc)
Herbstsonate (Autumn Sonata; Höstsonaten) (+ sc)
Fårö-dokument 1979 (Fårö 1979) (+ sc, narration)
Aus dem Leben der Marionetten (From the Life of the Marionettes) (+ sc)
Fanny och Alexander (Fanny and Alexander) (+ sc)
Efter Repetitioner (After the Rehearsal) (+ sc)
Karin's Face (short)
Den Goda viljan (The Best Intentions) (mini for TV)
Markisinnan de Sade (for TV) (+sc)
Sista skriket (The Last Gasp) (for TV) (+sc)
Larmar och gör sig till (In the Presence of a Clown) (for TV) (+sc, ro as Mental Patient); Bergmans röst (The Voice ofBergman (Bergdahl) (doc)
Hets (Torment; Frenzy) (Sjöberg) (sc)
Kvinna utan ansikte (Woman without a Face) (Molander) (sc)
Eva (Molander) (co-sc)
Medan staden sover (While the City Sleeps) (Kjellgren) (synopsis)
Frånskild (Divorced) (Molander) (sc)
Sista paret ut (Last Couple Out) (Sjöberg) (sc)
Lustgården (The Pleasure Garden) (Kjellin) (co-sc under pseudonym "Buntel Eriksson")
Kallelsen (The Vocation) (Nykvist) (pr)
Trollflöjten (The Magic Flute) (for TV) (+ sc)
Ansikte mot ansikte (Face to Face) (+ co-pr, sc) (for TV, originally broadcast in serial form); Paradistorg (SummerParadise) (Lindblom) (pr)
A Look at Liv (Kaplan) (role as interviewee)
Dokument: Fanny och Alexander (Carlsson) (subject)
Den Goda Viljan (The Best Intentions) (sc); Sondagsbarn (Sunday's Children) (sc)
Enskilda samtal (Private Confessions) (series for TV) (sc)
Trolösa (Faithless) (sc)
By BERGMAN: books—
Four Screenplays of Ingmar Bergman, New York, 1960.
The Virgin Spring, New York, 1960.
A Film Trilogy (Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence), New York, 1967.
Persona and Shame, New York, 1972.
Bergman on Bergman, edited by Stig Björkman and others, New York, 1973.
Scenes from a Marriage, New York, 1974.
Face to Face, New York, 1976.
Four Stories by Ingmar Bergman, New York, 1977.
The Serpent's Egg, New York, 1978.
Autumn Sonata, New York, 1979.
From the Life of the Marionettes, New York, 1980.
Fanny and Alexander, New York, 1982; London, 1989.
Talking with Ingmar Bergman, edited by G. William Jones, Dallas, Texas, 1983.
The Marriage Scenarios: Scenes from a Marriage; Face to Face; Autumn Sonata, New York, 1983.
The Seventh Seal, New York, 1984.
Laterna Magica, Stockholm, 1987; as The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography, London, 1988.
Bilder, Stockholm, 1988; published as Images: My Life in Film, New York, 1993.
Den goda viljan, Stockholm, 1991; published as The Best Intentions, New York, 1993.
Sondagsbarn, Stockholm, 1993; published as Sunday's Children, New York, 1994.
Ingmar Bergman: An Artist's Journey on Stage, Screen, in Print, edited by Roger W. Oliver, Arcade Publishers, 1995.
Private Confessions: A Novel, translated by Joan Tate, Arcade Publishers, 1997.
By BERGMAN: articles—
"Self-Analysis of a Film-Maker," in Films and Filming (London), September 1956.
"Dreams and Shadows," in Films and Filming (London), October 1956.
Interview with Jean Béranger, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), October 1958.
"Each Film Is My Last," in Films and Filming (London), July 1959.
"Bergman on Victor Sjöstrom," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1960.
"The Snakeskin," in Sight and Sound (London), August 1965.
"Schizophrenic Interview with a Nervous Film Director," by 'Ernest Riffe' (pseudonym), in Film in Sweden (Stockholm), no. 3, 1968, and in Take One (Montreal), January/February 1969.
"Moment of Agony," interview with Lars-Olof Löthwall, in Films and Filming (London), February 1969.
"Conversations avec Ingmar Bergman," with Jan Aghed, in Positif (Paris), November 1970.
Interview with William Wolf, in New York, 27 October 1980.
"The Making of Fanny and Alexander," interview in Films and Filming (London), February 1983.
Interview with Peter Cowie, in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), April 1983.
"Goodbye to All That: Ingmar Bergman's Farewell to Film," an interview with F. van der Linden and B.J. Bertina, in Cinema Canada (Montreal), February 1984.
"Kak suzdavalas," Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 30, no. 2/3, 1988.
Interview with S. Bjorkman and O. Assayas, in Cahiers du Cinema (Paris), October 1990.
Interview with Jan Aghed and Jannike Åhlund, in Positif (Paris), May 1998.
On BERGMAN: books—
Béranger, Jean, Ingmar Bergman et ses films, Paris, 1959.
Donner, Jörn, The Personal Vision of Ingmar Bergman, Bloomington, Indiana, 1964.
Maisetti, Massimo, La Crisi spiritulai dell'uomo moderno nei film di Ingmar Bergman, Varese, 1964.
Nelson, David, Ingmar Bergman: The Search for God, Boston, 1964.
Steene, Birgitta, Ingmar Bergman, New York, 1968.
Gibson, Arthur, The Silence of God: Creative Response to the Films of Ingmar Bergman, New York, 1969.
Wood, Robin, Ingmar Bergman, New York, 1969.
Sjögren, Henrik, Regi: Ingmar Bergman, Stockholm, 1970.
Young, Vernon, Cinema Borealis: Ingmar Bergman and the Swedish Ethos, New York, 1971.
Simon, John, Ingmar Bergman Directs, New York, 1972.
Kaminsky, Stuart, editor, Ingmar Bergman: Essays in Criticism, New York, 1975.
Bergom-Larsson, Maria, Ingmar Bergman and Society, San Diego, 1978.
Kawin, Bruce, Mindscreen: Bergman, Godard, and the First-Person Film, Princeton, 1978.
Sjöman, Vilgot, L. 136. Diary with Ingmar Bergman, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1978.
Manvell, Roger, Ingmar Bergman: An Appreciation, New York, 1980.
Mosley, Philip, Ingmar Bergman: The Cinema as Mistress, Boston, 1981.
Petric, Vlada, editor, Film and Dreams: An Approach to Ingmar Bergman, South Salem, New York, 1981.
Cowie, Peter, Ingmar Bergman: A Critical Biography, New York, 1982.
Livingston, Paisley, Ingmar Bergman and the Ritual of Art, Ithaca, New York, 1982.
Marker, Lise-Lone, Ingmar Bergman: Four Decades in the Theater, New York, 1982.
Steene, Birgitta, A Reference Guide to Ingmar Bergman, Boston, 1982.
Lefèvre, Raymond, Ingmar Bergman, Paris, 1983.
Dervin, Daniel, Through a Freudian Lens Deeply: A Psychoanalysis of Cinema, Hillsdale, New Jersey, 1985.
Gado, Frank, The Passion of Ingmar Bergman, Durham, North Carolina, 1986.
Ketcham, Charles B., The Influence of Existentialism on Ingmar Bergman: An Analysis of the Theological Ideas Shaping a Filmmaker's Art, Lewiston, New York, 1986.
Steene, Birgitta, Ingmar Bergman: A Guide to References and Resources, Boston, 1987.
Lauder, Robert E., God, Death, Art, and Love: The Philosophical Vision of Ingmar Bergman, Mahwah, New Jersey, 1989.
Marty, Joseph, Ingmar Bergman, une poetique du desir, Paris, 1991.
Cowie, Peter, Ingmar Bergman: A Critical Biography, New York, 1992.
Marker, Lise-Lone, Ingmar Bergman: A Life in the Theater, New York, 1992.
Bragg, Melvin, The Seventh Seal, London, 1993.
Cohen, Hubert I., Ingmar Bergman: The Art of Confession, Boston, 1993.
Gibson, Arthur, The Rite of Redemption in the Films of Ingmar Bergman, Lewiston, Maine, 1993.
Tornqvist, Egil, Filmdiktaren Ingmar Bergman, Stockholm, 1993.
Long, Robert Emmet, Ingmar Bergman: Film and Stage, New York, 1994.
Tornqvist, Egil, Between Stage and Screen: Ingmar Bergman Directs(Film Culture in Transition), Amsterdam University Press, 1996.
Johns Blackwell, Marilyn, Gender and Representation in the Films ofIngmar Bergman (Studies in Scandinavian Literature and Culture), Camden House, 1997.
Vermilye, Jerry, Ingmar Bergman: His Films and Career, Birch Lane Press, 1998.
On BERGMAN: articles—
Ulrichsen, Erik, "Ingmar Bergman and the Devil," in Sight andSound (London), Summer 1958.
Godard, Jean-Luc, "Bergmanorama," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July 1958.
Archer, Eugene, "The Rack of Life," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1959.
Alpert, Hollis, "Bergman as Writer," in Saturday Review (New York), 27 August 1960.
Alpert, Hollis, "Style Is the Director," in Saturday Review (New York), 23 December 1961.
Nykvist, Sven, "Photographing the Films of Ingmar Bergman," in American Cinematographer (Los Angeles), October 1962.
Persson, Göran, "Bergmans trilogi," in Chaplin (Stockholm), no. 40, 1964.
Fleisher, Frederic, "Ants in a Snakeskin," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1965.
Lefèvre, Raymond, "Ingmar Bergman," in Image et Son (Paris), March 1969.
"Director of the Year," International Film Guide (London, New York), 1973.
Sammern-Frankenegg, Fritz, "Learning 'A Few Words in the Foreign Language': Ingmar Bergman's 'Secret Message' in the Imagery of Hand and Face," in Scandinavian Studies, Summer 1977.
Sorel, Edith, "Ingmar Bergman: I Confect Dreams and Anguish," in New York Times, 22 January 1978.
Kinder, Marsha, "From the Life of the Marionettes to The Devil'sWanton," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Spring 1981.
Lundell, T., and A. Mulac, "Husbands and Wives in Bergman Films: A Close Analysis Based on Empirical Data," in Journal ofUniversity Film Association (Carbondale, Illinois), Winter 1981.
Nave, B., and H. Welsh, "Retour de Bergman: Au ciné-club et au stage de Boulouris," in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), April-May 1982.
Cowie, Peter, "Bergman at Home," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1982.
Corliss, Richard, and W. Wolf, "God, Sex, and Ingmar Bergman," in Film Comment (New York), May-June 1983.
McLean, T., "Knocking on Heaven's door," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), June 1983.
Boyd, D., "Persona and the Cinema of Representation," in FilmQuarterly (Los Angeles), Winter 1983–84.
Tornqvist, E., "August StrindBERGman Ingmar," in Skrien (Amsterdam), Winter 1983–84.
Koskinen, M., "The Typically Swedish in Ingmar Bergman," in 25th Anniversary issue of Chaplin (Stockholm), 1984.
Ingemanson, B., "The Screenplays of Ingmar Bergman: Personification and Olfactory Detail," and J.F. Maxfield, "Bergman's Shame: A Dream of Punishment," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), January 1984.
"Dialogue on Film: Sven Nykvist," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), March 1984.
"Ingmar Bergman Section" of Positif (Paris), March 1985.
Barr, Alan P., "The Unraveling of Character in Bergman's Persona," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), vol. 15, no. 2, 1987.
O'Connor, John J., "Museum Tribute to Ingmar Bergman," in NewYork Times, 18 February 1987.
Chaplin (Stockholm), no. 30, vol 2/3, 1988.
American Film (Washington, D.C.), October 1988.
Corliss, Richard, "The Glass Eye," in Film Comment (New York), November-December 1988.
Tobin, Yann, article in Positif (Paris), December 1988.
Lohr, S., "For Bergman, a New Twist on an Old Love," in New YorkTimes, 6 September 1989.
"Bille August to Helm Script by Bergman," in Variety (New York), 13 September 1989.
Nystedt, H., article in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 32, no. 1, 1990.
Oliver, Roger W., "Bergman's Trilogy: Tradition and Innovation," in Performing Arts Journal (New York), January 1992.
Bonneville, L. "Les meilleures intentions. Par Ingmar Bergman," in Sequences, January 1993.
Kauffmann, Stanley, "The Abduction from the Theater: Mozart Opera on Film," in Yale Review (New Haven), January 1993.
Lahr, John, "Ingmar's Woman," in New Yorker (New York), 17 May 1993.
James, C. "Scenes from a Chilly Marriage," in New York Times, May 23, 1993.
"New York Institutions Honor Ingmar Bergman," in New YorkTimes, 13 December 1994.
Riding, Alan, "Face to Face with a Life of Creation: At 76, the Eminent Director Ingmar Bergman Seems Even to Have His Demons under Control," in New York Times, 30 April 1995.
Murphy, Kathleen, "A Clean, Well-lighted Place: Ingmar Bergman's Dollhouse," in Film Comment (New York), May-June 1995.
James, Caryn, "Sweden's Poet of Film and Stagecraft," in New YorkTimes, 5 May 1995
Jefferson, Margo, "Bergman Conquers, Not Once but Twice," in New York Times, 18 June 1995.
Bird, M., "Secret Arithmetic of the Soul: Music as a Spiritual Metaphor in the Cinema of Ingmar Bergman," in Kinema (Water-loo), Spring 1996.
Koskinen, M., "'Everything Represents, Nothing Is,': Some Relations between Ingmar Bergman's Films and Theatre Productions," in Canadian Journal of Film Studies (Ottawa), vol. 6, no. 1, 1997.
Thompson, R., "Bergman's Women," in Moviemaker (Pasadena), May/June/July 1997.
Amiel, Vincent, "Du monde et de soi-même, l'éternel spectateur," in Positif (Paris), May 1998.
Wickbom, Kaj, "Den unge Ingmar Bergman," in Filmrutan (Sundsvall), 1998.
On BERGMAN: films—
Greenblatt, Nat, producer, The Directors, 1963 (appearance).
Donner, Jörn, director, Tre scener med Ingmar Bergman (ThreeScenes with Ingmar Bergman) (for Finnish TV), 1975.
Donner, Jörn, director, The Bergman File, 1978.
* * *
Ingmar Bergman's unique international status as a filmmaker would seem assured on many grounds. His reputation can be traced to such diverse factors as his prolific output of largely notable work (40 features from 1946–82); the profoundly personal nature of his best films since the 1950s; the innovative nature of his technique combined with its essential simplicity, even when employing surrealistic and dream-like treatments (as, for example, in Wild Strawberries and Persona); his creative sensitivity in relation to his players; and his extraordinary capacity to evoke distinguished acting from his regular interpreters, notably Gunnar Björnstrand, Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, and Liv Ullmann.
After an initial period of derivative, melodramatic filmmaking largely concerned with bitter man-woman relationships ("I just grabbed helplessly at any form that might save me, because I hadn't any of my own," he confesses in Bergman on Bergman), Bergman reached an initial maturity of style in Summer Interlude and Summer with Monika, romantic studies of adolescent love and subsequent disillusionment. In The Naked Night he used a derelict travelling circus—its proprietor paired with a faithless young mistress and its clown with a faithless middle-aged wife—as a symbol of human suffering through misplaced love and to portray the ultimate loneliness of the human condition, a theme common to much of his work. Not that Bergman's films are all gloom and disillusionment. He has a recurrent, if veiled, sense of humour. His comedies, such as A Lesson in Love and Smiles of a Summer Night, are ironically effective ("You're a gynecologist who knows nothing about women," says a man's mistress in A Lesson in Love), and even in Wild Strawberries the aged professor's relations with his housekeeper offer comic relief. Bergman's later comedies, the Shavian The Devil's Eye and Now About All These Women, are both sharp and fantastic.
"To me, religious problems are continuously alive . . . not . . . on the emotional level, but on an intellectual one," wrote Bergman at the time of Wild Strawberries. The Seventh Seal, The Virgin Spring, Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence lead progressively to the rejection of religious belief, leaving only the conviction that human life is haunted by "a virulent, active evil." The crusading knight of The Seventh Seal who cannot face death once his faith is lost survives only to witness the cruelty of religious persecution. In Bergman's view, faith belongs to the simple-minded and innocent. The Virgin Spring exposes the violence of vengeance in a period of primitive Christianity.
Bergman no longer likes these films, considering them "bogus"; nevertheless, they are excellently made in his highly professional style. Disillusionment with Lutheran denial of love is deep in Winter Light. "In Winter Light I swept my house clean," Bergman has said. Other Bergman films reflect his views on religion as well: the mad girl in Through a Glass Darkly perceives God as a spider, while the ailing sister in The Silence faces death with a loneliness that passes all understanding as a result of the frigid silence of God in the face of her sufferings. In The Face, however, Bergman takes sardonic delight in letting the rationalistic miracle-man suspect in the end that his bogus miracles are in fact genuine.
With Wild Strawberries, Bergman turned increasingly to psychological dilemmas and ethical issues in human and social relations once religion has proved a failure. Above all else, the films suggest, love, understanding, and common humanity seem lacking. The aged medical professor in Wild Strawberries comes through a succession of dreams to realize the truth about his cold and loveless nature. In Persona, the most psychologically puzzling, controversial, yet significant of all Bergman's films—with its Brechtian alienation technique and surreal treatment of dual personality—the self-imposed silence of the actress stems from her failure to love her husband and son, though she responds with horror to the self-destructive violence of the world around her. This latter theme is carried still further in The Shame, in which an egocentric musician attempts non-involvement in his country's war only to collapse into irrational acts of violence himself through sheer panic. The Shame and Hour of the Wolf are concerned with artists who are too self-centered to care about the larger issues of the society in which they live.
"It wasn't until A Passion that I really got to grips with the man-woman relationship," says Bergman. A Passion deals with "the dark, destructive forces" in human nature which sexual urges can inspire. Bergman's later films reflect, he claims, his "ceaseless fascination with the whole race of women," adding that "the film . . . should communicate psychic states." The love and understanding needed by women is too often denied them, suggests Bergman. Witness the case of the various women about to give birth in Brink of Life and the fearful, haunted, loveless family relationships in Cries and Whispers. The latter, with The Shame and The Serpent's Egg, is surely among the most terrifying of Bergman's films, though photographed in exquisite color by Sven Nykvist, his principal cinematographer.
Man-woman relationships are successively and uncompromisingly examined in a series of Bergman films. The Touch shows a married woman driven out of her emotional depth in an extramarital affair; Face to Face, one of Bergman's most moving films, concerns the nervous breakdown of a cold-natured woman analyst and the hallucinations she suffers; and a film made as a series for television (but reissued more effectively in a shortened, re-edited form for the cinema, Scenes from a Marriage) concerns the troubled, long-term love of a professional couple who are divorced but unable to endure separation. Supreme performances were given by Bibi Andersson in Persona and The Touch, and by Liv Ullmann in Cries and Whispers, Scenes from a Marriage and Face to Face. Bergman's later films, made in Sweden or during his period of self-imposed exile, are more miscellaneous. The Magic Flute is one of the best, most delightful of opera-films. The Serpent's Egg is a savage study in the sadistic origins of Nazism, while Autumn Sonata explores the case of a mother who cannot love. Bergman declared his filmmaking at an end with his brilliant, German-made misanthropic study of a fatal marriage, From the Life of the Marionettes, and the semi-autobiographical television series Fanny and Alexander. Swedish-produced, the latter work was released in a re-edited version for the cinema. Set in 1907, Fanny and Alexander is the gentle, poetic story of two years in the lives of characters who are meant to be Bergman's maternal grandparents.
After Fanny and Alexander, Bergman directed After the Rehearsal, a small-scale drama which reflected his growing preoccupation with working in the theater. It features three characters: an aging, womanizing stage director mounting a version of Strindberg's The Dream Play; the attractive, determined young actress who is his leading lady; and his former lover, once a great star but now an alcoholic has-been, who accepts a humiliating bit role in the production.
After the Rehearsal was not Bergman's cinematic swan song. He went on to author two scripts which are autobiographical outgrowths of Fanny and Alexander. The Best Intentions, directed by Bille August, is a compassionate chronicle of ten years in the tempestuous courtship and early marriage of Bergman's parents. His father starts out as an impoverished theology student who is unyielding in his views. His mother is spirited but pampered, the product of an upper-class upbringing. The film also is of note for the casting of Max von Sydow as the filmmaker's maternal grandfather. The actor's presence is most fitting, given the roots of the scenario and his working relationship with Bergman, which dates back to the 1950s.
The Best Intentions was followed by Sunday's Children, directed by Bergman's son Daniel. The film is a deeply personal story of a ten-year-old boy named Pu, who is supposed to represent the young Ingmar Bergman. Pu is growing up in the Swedish countryside during the 1920s. The scenario focuses on his relationship to his minister father and other family members; also depicted is the adult Pu's unsettling connection to his elderly dad.
—Roger Manvell, updated by Rob Edelman
Born: July 14, 1918
Swedish film director
I ngmar Bergman is widely regarded as one of the greatest directors in the history of motion pictures. His works are marked by intense characters, as well as intellectual and symbolic content.
Ingmar Bergman was born on July 14, 1918, in Uppsala, Sweden, the son of a Lutheran minister who believed in strict discipline for his children. Raised under these circumstances, Bergman developed a love for movies, which he used as an escape from his rigid upbringing. By the age of six Bergman was making his own movies, primitive works that he pieced together from film scraps. A few years later, after seeing his first stage production, Bergman began producing his own plays for a puppet theater.
In 1937 Bergman entered the University of Stockholm, where he became an active member of the student theatrical group. In 1942, after a brilliant production of William Shakespeare's (1564–1616) Macbeth, the aspiring director was appointed to the Swedish Royal Opera. In the years following he divided his talents equally between stage and film efforts.
In 1945 Bergman directed his first film, Crisis, the story of an unhappy love affair which ends in suicide (taking one's own life). Several films followed closely, but in 1956 Bergman reached the peak of critical and popular praise with The Seventh Seal. The Seventh Seal is a morality (having to do with the difference between wrong and right) play about a knight who, seeking to satisfy his religious doubts and unravel the mystery of the universe, challenges Death to a game of chess. Even Bergman's critics agree that this film has visual daring with great dramatic power.
A year later Bergman directed Wild Strawberries, a touching study of the difference between youth and old age. With his next film, The Magician (1959), Bergman returned to his earlier use of symbolism, where objects or events are used to represent something else. It is the story of a group of wandering magicians and their encounters with otherworldly spirits. The Virgin Spring followed in 1960, as well as several lesser works.
In 1961 Bergman embarked upon his ambitious trilogy (three works), beginning with Through a Glass Darkly, an intense, almost hysterical, study of family violence. The second contribution, Winter Light (1962), presents the emptiness which follows loss of faith. The final portion, The Silence (1963), explores the problems of noncommunication. The trilogy is concerned with the problem of God's absence rather than His presence, and with the pain stemming from personal isolation rather than the puzzle of human existence itself. It represents Bergman's increasingly complex view of the world.
This sophistication is also evident in the coldly poetic Persona (1966). This film tells of a bizarre relationship between a young actress who has lapsed into complete silence and the talkative nurse who cares for her. The Hour of the Wolf (1968), about an artist who is haunted by specters (ghosts), marks what some feel is a regrettable return to Bergman's earlier use of mysticism, or a spiritual search.
Due to tax problems Bergman spent much of the 1970s overseas, where he produced work for television in Norway and Germany as well as in Sweden. His major theatrical films of this period include Cries and Whispers (1971) and Autumn Sonata (1978). Highly regarded among the television work are Scenes from a Marriage (1973) and The Magic Flute of the same year.
In 1982 Bergman released one of his most autobiographical (having to do with a person's own life) films, the richly detailed Fanny and Alexander. Announced as his final film, it brings together many different themes from his previous works and is seen as a powerful summary of his life and career. Since Fanny and Alexander Bergman has published an autobiography, The Magic Lantern (1988); a novel, Best Intentions (1989); and has continued to write and direct for Swedish television and theater. Best Intentions was produced from Bergman's script for Swedish television in 1991.
The year 2001 saw the release of Faithless, written by Bergman but directed by actress Liv Ullmann (1939–). Bergman believed the movie's subject—one man's destructive affair with a married woman—was too personal and emotionally draining.
Bergman's reputation has diminished somewhat in recent years, but he is still regarded as one of the great directors, and his films remain among the most widely recognized in the world. Many well-known American directors, such as Woody Allen (1935–), have paid tribute to Bergman in their own films.
For More Information
Bergman, Ingmar. Images: My Life in Film. New York: Arcade, 1994.
Bergman, Ingmar. The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography. New York: Viking Penguin, 1988.
Vermilye, Jerry. Ingmar Bergman: His Films and Career. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Pub. Group, 1997.