I just completed my "Ingmar Bergman Marathon"! Over the past three weeks, my wife and I watched 11 classic films from the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman (born 1918).
It started off about three weeks ago when I rented "Wild Strawberries" on a whim. I had first seen it in 1970. After thoroughly enjoying it, we decided to re-immerse ourselves in Bergman. These are the films we watched: (the ones with the * are ones I had seen before in the early 1970s)
Smiles of A Summer Night* (1955)
The Seventh Seal (1957)*
Wild Strawberries (1958)*
Virgin Spring (1960)
Through A Glass Darkly (1961)*
Winter Light (1962)*
The Silence (1963)
The Passion of Anna (1969)*
Cries and Whispers (1972)*
Scenes from a Marriage (1973)*
As I watched them, I couldn't help but compare my feelings about these films to the feelings I had when I first watched them over thirty-five years ago. Back then, I was a student in my early twenties trying to open my mind up to the big issues of life. At that time, these films helped do just that. Today, I'm in my late fifties and have had my own life experience, and these films helped to put that in perspective.
When I first saw "The Seventh Seal," "Wild Strawberries," and "Winter Light," I was entranced, delighted and provoked by the big metaphysical issues Bergman confronted and explored. Plus Bergman's writing is outstanding. These three films still stand up well today, and rightly deserve to be called "Classics."
When I saw "The Passion of Anna" and "Cries and Whispers" in theatrical release in the early 1970s, I was amazed by their ideas, boldness, and subject matter. When I saw them again, I was less impressed. The late 1960s and early 1970s were a confusing time, and Bergman's own confusion comes out clearly — especially in "The Passion of Anna." Now that I've had my own taste of life (business, marriage, fatherhood, death of loved ones, etc.), I scratched my head over some of the decisions his characters made. These films, nonetheless, are still provocative and worth seeing.
What's especially enjoyable about Bergman is he presents us with consistent glimpses into his evolving vision of God, man's place in the world, love, human relationships, and fear. I use the word "consistent" because Bergman uses the same film technicians and actors repeatedly. In a way, it's comforting to see Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, and Gunnar Bjornstrand, and then Liv Ullman, and Erland Josephson adopt different roles in his work. I use the word "evolving" because Bergman moved from a religious/metaphysical orientation to an existential one.
Bergman, along with Kubrick, Kurosawa, and Fellini, is one of the six or seven greatest directors of the second half of the twentieth century. Watching eleven of his films in a short period was fun, personally revealing, and above all inspiring!
If you haven't seen a Bergman film in a while, check one out. Criterion has done a fine job of bringing the films to the DVD format and adding special features and commentaries. The so-called "Trilogy" from the early 1960s — "Through A Glass Darkly," "Winter Light," and "The Silence" — is not a bad place to begin.
What are your favorite Bergman films?