Cinema of Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman Films

“We walk in circles, so limited by our own anxieties that we can no longer distinguish between true and false, between the gangster’s whim and the purest ideal.” ― Ingmar Bergman

“Today the individual has become the highest form, and the greatest bane, of artistic creation. The smallest wound or pain of the ego is examined under a microscope as if it were of eternal importance. The artist considers his isolation, his subjectivity, his individualism almost holy. Thus we finally gather in one large pen, where we stand and bleat about our loneliness without listening to each other and without realizing that we are smothering each other to death. The individualists stare into each other’s eyes and yet deny each other’s existence. We walk in circles, so limited by our own anxieties that we can no longer distinguish between true and false, between the gangster’s whim and the purest ideal.”

These words belong to the legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. He was the son of a Protestant priest and had a brother whom he hated. He married a couple of times and had many lovers who inspired him throughout his life. His films are visual reflections of the questions he asks in his writings. His films are often melancholic and obscure – focused on feelings rather than things, not so concerned with sociopolitical issues. In 2005, he was referred to as the most important director alive, uplifting cinema as an art form equal to literature and theatre. We can divide the films of Bergman into different periods. Here are some of the films that are essential for film lovers to watch;

The first period: This is the period right after World War II. Naturally, Bergman’s films were dark and pessimistic. The increase in the number of suicides and disbelief in God affected his color palette. The best example for this period is Fangelse, which he filmed in 1949. The film traces what’s right and wrong, as well as the definitions of hell. The other films that belong to this period are Det regnar på vår kärlek (1946), Skepp till India land (1947) Hamnstad (1948) and Törst (1949).

Fangelse (1949)

Second Period: The period in which Bergman is immersed with themes such as love and separation. Women appear as his muses, and he tells his stories by centering them around women. Sommarnattens leende (1956) is the first film that comes to mind which was well received by the jury and the viewer. The festival invented a category and prize just for this film: Poetic Irony Prize. Other films include Sommarlek (1951), Kvinnors väntan (1952), Gycklarnas afton (1953).

Sommarnattens leende
Sommarnattens leende 1955

Third Period: In 1960s Bergman moved on to questions about God – Human relationship. The good and the evil get to be questioned especially in this period. Some of these films are Jungfrukällan that irritated the viewer as it was aimed. The work that shook the film world was his Det sjunde inseglet (1957) in which a man seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague.

Jungfrukällan 1960
Det sjunde inseglet
Det sjunde inseglet 1957

Fourth Period: In this period Bergman finalizes his quest for God by rejecting it, believing that it has died.

1961 – Såsom i en spegel
1963 – Nattvardsgästerna
1963 – Tystnaden

Såsom i en spegel
Såsom i en spegel 1961

Fifth Period: He focuses on man and his emotions with close-ups. These films are filled with love, hate, and silence.

1966 – Persona: the film that redefines cinema.
1968 – Vargtimmen: Bergman’s first and only horror film.
1968 – Skammen: a film about how war affects the living-dead.
1972 – Viskningar och rop: a film about death, belief, and loneliness based on three sisters.
1973 – Scener ur ett äktenskap
1978 – Höstsonaten: a woman confronts her mother…
1982 – Fanny och Alexander

persona 1966
Persona 1966
Persona 1966
Persona 1966


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