30 July 2007


It's easy to throw out referential comments about Ingmar Bergman's death today: "he finally lost the chess game with Death" or, as my friend Chris put it, "he's finally going to meet that giant spider in the sky." Bergman's films frequently dealt with death, whether it be the fear of the afterlife or the question of God's existence; in a way, his films were his own eulogy. From Harriet Andersson in Cries and Whispers, Ingrid Thulin in The Silence, and Max von Sydow in Winter Light, death was inescapable in Bergman's world. To call Bergman one of the finest filmmakers of all time seems redundant, as this is fairly widely recognized, but it's no overstatement. He was consistent and prolific, churning out some of the most wrenching and memorable films ever committed to the screen in quick succession. He became known internationally with his romantic comedy, Smiles of a Summer Night, but truly executed his signature later with The Virgin Spring, his Silence of God trilogy, and meta nightmares like Persona. He won three Academy Awards, for The Virgin Spring, Through a Glass Darkly, and his final opus Fanny and Alexander (he announced that to be his final film, but followed it with small made-for-Swedish-television dramas and Saraband, a sequel to his famed Scenes from a Marriage). Women were always the subject of fascination and intrigue from Liv Ullmann, Andersson, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, and Gunnel Lindblom; Bergman's obsession proved unforgettable and influential to filmmakers from Woody Allen even to Pedro Almodóvar. His death came as no surprise this morning, but it offered a fine time for reflection on his work... He was 89.

Notable Filmography:
Saraband (2003)
Fanny & Alexander (1982)
Autumn Sonata (1978)
The Magic Flute (1975)
Scenes from a Marriage (1973)
Cries and Whispers (1972)
The Passion of Anna (1969)
Hour of the Wolf (1968)
Persona (1966)
The Silence (1963)
Winter Light (1962)
Through a Glass Darkly (1961)
The Virgin Spring (1960)
The Magician (1958)
Wild Strawberries (1957)
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)
Summer with Monika (1953)

Other Assorted Filmography:
After the Rehearsal (1984)
From the Life of the Marionettes (1980)
The Serpent's Egg (1977)
Shame (1968)
All These Women (1964)
Brink of Life (1958)
Sawdust and Tinsel (1953)
To Joy (1950)
Thirst (1949)
Port of Call (1948)
Crisis (1946)

Deconstructing Harry (1997) - Woody Allen's version of Wild Strawberries
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) - Allen's loose adaptation of Cries and Whispers
Interiors (1978) - Another Allen rendition of Cries and Whispers/Persona
A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982) - Allen's Smiles of a Summer Night
Manhattan (1979) - Contains the wonderful argument between Allen and Diane Keaton over Bergman
Husbands and Wives (1992) - Allen's Scenes from a Marriage
Scenes from a Mall (1991) - Paul Mazursky comedy with Bette Midler and Allen, sort of influenced by Marriage
Torremolinos 73 (2003) - Spanish comedy where a man decides to direct a porn film in Bergman-style
Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie (1963) - Vilgot Sjöman's (I Am Curious: Yellow) documentary
Light Keeps Me Company (2000) - Documentary about Bergman's cinematographer, Sven Nykvist
Torment (1944) - Bergman's first screenplay
Faithless (2000) - Liv Ullmann's film from a Bergman screenplay
Performance (1970) - Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg's male equivalent of Persona
3 Women (1977) - Robert Altman's pseudo-remake of Persona with Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall
Mulholland Drive (2001) - David Lynch's homage to Persona
Un chien andalou (1929) - Notice Bergman's reference to this film in the opening montage of Persona
Me Without You (2001) - There's a humorous moment in the film where Kyle Maclachlan blasts a young girl vying for his affection for responding Wild Strawberries, the typical response, for what her favorite Bergman film is.

Bergman's mark on cinema is far more expansive than this list (especially Scenes from a Marriage and Persona), but there's a starting point if you want to investigate further.

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