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||Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007 )|
Swedish movie and theatre director, playwright, screenwriter. Although Bergman was widely known as a film director, he also became one of the foreground figures of the modern Swedish theatre. Bergman's artistic career included stage performances, radio productions, feature films, and TV productions. In several books, from The Magic Lantern (1987) to Private Conversations (1996) Bergman explored his childhood, his relationship to his father, and the strained marriage of his parents.
"I want very much to tell, to talk about, the wholeness inside every human being. It's a strange thing that every human being has a sort of dignity or wholeness in him, and out of that develops relationships to other human beings, tensions, misunderstandings, tenderness, coming in contact, touching and being touched, the cutting off of a contact and what happens then." (Bergman in John Simon's book Ingmar Bergman Directs, 1972)
Ingmar Bergman was born in Uppsala, the son of Erik Bergman, a Lutheran minister and chaplain to the court of Sweden, and Karin Bergman (née Åkerblom), who came from a prosperous family. In 2011 Bergman's niece Veronica Ralston claimed in her book Kärleksbarnet och bortbytingen, that the director's real mother was Hedvig Sjöberg, with whom Erik had a relationship. Bergman was switched at birth with Karin's baby who had died. However, the DNA tests carried out on two stamps claimed to prove this were false: a lab technician's DNA had contaminated the samples.
Bergman was raised under strict discipline. Karin was a proud, strong-willed person, and the relationship between his parents became mutually destructive."Mother, You are my best friend," Bergman wroto to her years later, as a grown-up man. From his childhood pressures Bergman later drew material for his plays and films. Many of Bergman's works explored the father-god trauma, including the films Through a Glass Darkly (1961) and Winter Light (1963).
At the age of 10 Bergman received a laterna magica as a toy. He made dolls for his puppet theater and saw in 1935 his first theater production, A Dream Play by August Strindberg. Bergman studied literature and art at the University of Stockholm. After graduation, he worked as a trainee-director at a Stockholm theater. During this period he published a few short stories and wrote a number of plays including Kaspers död (1942) and Jack among the Actors (1946). At the age of twenty-six Bergman became the youngest theatre manager in Europe at the Hälsingborg City Theatre in Sweden. He secured his position through a large number of impressive productions, especially classical plays. Bergman was manager of the Helsingborg city theatre (1944-46), director at Gothenburg city theatre (1946-49), at Malmö city theatre (1953-60) and at the Dramaten in Stockholm (1960-66), the last three years as manager.
Bergman made his debut in 1944 as a screenwriter to the Alf Sjöberg Hets (Frenzy). Fängelse (1949, The Devil's Wanton), shot in two-and-a-half weeks, was the first film Bergman both wrote and directed. Swedish critics referred Bergman as "the puberty crisis director" specializing in "delayed adolescence". The artistic breakthrough came with Gycklarnas afton (1953, Sawdust and Tinsel), in which Bergman described an artist's life as despised and wasted. The background is a third class circus environment. "It is true people often talk about 'decisive moments,'" Bergan said once. "Dramatists in particular make much of this fiction. The truth is probably that such moments hardly exist, but just looks as if they do... The actual breakthrough is a fact far back in the past, far back in obscurity." (in Private Conversations, 1996)
Bergman's first international success was Sommarnattens leende (1955, Smiles of the Summer Night). In the story, which begins realistically but has a kind of fairy tale ending, a country lawyer meets again a touring actress who was once his mistress. He accepts an invitation for him and his young wife to stay at her mother's country home for a weekend. Wild Strawberries (1957) is considered a landmark film in Bergman's career. It dealt with the subject of man's isolation, and like in several films, Bergman used a journey as a plot structure. The Seventh Seal (1957), shot in only 35 days, won prizes at the Cannes Film Festival. This medieval road movie explored the individual's relationship with God and the idea of Death. In the story, set in the fourteenth century, a knight challenges Death to a game of chess. Over the years Max von Sydow, the knight, came to be identified as Bergman's on-screen alter ego. However, von Sydow has played also in action movies.
Bibi Andersson, Harriet Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, and Liv Ullmann were Bergman's favorite actresses and Sven Nykvist his regular cameraman. Ullmann, his muse, later left the island of Farö, where they lived, and gained international stardom. Their daughter Linn became as a novelist. In 1971 Bergman married Ingrid von Rosen; they had already had an affair in the late 1950s. Bergman had four previous marriages: with Else Fisher, Ellen Lundström, Gun Grut, and Käbi Laretei. Ingrid von Rosen died of cancer in 1995.
"Film as dream, film as music. No for of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to pour emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul. A little twitch in our optic nerve, a shock effect: twenty-four illuminated frames in a second, darkness in between, the optic nerve incapable of registering darkness. At the editing table, when I run the trip of film through, frame by frame, I still feel that dizzy sense of magic of my childhood: in the darkness of the wardrobe, I slowly wind one frame after another, see almost imperceptible changes, wind faster - a movement." (in The Magical Lantern, 1987)
Recurrent themes in Bergman's films are men's and women's inability to communicate with each other, metaphysical questions of guilt and the existence of God, and the emotional cruelty of human beings. "For many years, I was on Hitler's side, delighted by his success and saddened by his defeats," Bergman revealed from his youth. Already from his early play Jack among the Actors, Bergman showed his interest in the ambiguous tension between artist and public. Persona (1966) marked Bergman's departure from metaphysics toward the realm of human psychology. At that time Bergman was leaving his post at the Royal Dramatic Theater. He wrote the script in 1965 while hospitalized; withdrawal and illness were also subjects of the film. In his self-analysis and works on tensions between the sexes Bergman has continued the psychological tradition of Strindberg. Among Bergman's most probing and honest studies of middle-class married couples from the 1970s is Scenes from a Marriage (1974), starring Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson, Bibi Anderson, and Jan Malmsjö. Originally it was made as six TV episodes, but Bergman later edited it into feature-length.
Despite Bergman's international status, his films were not always positively received by Swedish critics. In 1962 the director Bo Widerberg published a pamphlet attacking him for reinforcing national stereotypes and calling for a new and more socially conscious national cinema. On the other hand, Summer with Monika (1953) was attacked in the United States. Its prints were confiscated in Los Angeles, and a judge declared that the film appealed to potential sex murderers. Smiles of the Summer Night was promoted as "a Swedish smorgasbord of sex, sin and psychiatry..." In the 1970s and 1980s feminists criticized Bergman's portrayal of women, although he has been considered among the most sensitive interpreters of the inner world of women in Europe. On artistic level the French film theorist Jean Mitry considers The Silence (1963) the perfect example of anticinema, a literary film, embodying everything which should be avoided. "Then we have one of the sisters masturbating while down in the street a tank which has been rolling through the town completely on its own comes to halt, coincidentally right underneath of the windows of her bedroom. No need to mention the sexual symbolism of the tank's gun pointed in the direction of the bedroom, by why on earth should that particular tank be rolling through the streets on its own, except to create its petty effect and to symbolize symbolically a symbolic menace? Etc." (from The Aesthetics and Psychology of the Cinema, 1997)
In 1976 Bergman was arrested by two policeman and charged with income-tax fraud. He suffered a nervous breakdown, closed his studio on the Baltic island of Fårö, and left Sweden in protest. The charges were later dropped. Bergman made his home in Munich, where he was a director at the Residenztheater. The Serpent's Egg (1977), which was filmed in English, dealt with the collapse of the German currency, and other events of the 1920s that paved the way for the Nazis, rise out of Bergman's frustration with the orderly society ande its subordination of the individual.
Bergman once noted that the cinema was like an exciting mistress to him, but the theatre was his faithful wife. As a film director his greatest international success was the autobiographical Fanny and Alexander (1982), which received the Oscar for best foreign film. (See also: Jörn Donner, exec. producer, Finnish writer, and director.) Reviews were in general positive, and Bergman was compared to Maz Ophuls, Federico Fellini, and Luchino Visconti. However, Richard Grenier wrote in Commentary: "I don't believe one word of this 'love' glup that runs from one end of the film to the other. When Ingmar Bergman talked to me of God and death I respected him despite his past political sympathies. But now that he's prattling on about love, and gentle smiles, and fruit trees in bloom, I think something in him snapped." (September 1983) In the story a well-to-do Uppsala family comes together to celebrate Christmas 1907. Statues come to life and the ghost of the departed mingle freely with the living. Alexander, a 10-year old boy, clashes with ironclad dogma and the icy Bishop Vergerus.
After returning to Sweden, Bergman wrote film scripts for Billie August and Daniel Bergman and directed at the Royal Swedish Theatre. The Swedish Film Institute launched a new Ingmar Bergman prize to be awarded annually. In 1988 appeared Bergman's autobiography, The Magic Lantern. It was followed by his film memoir Images: My Life in Film (1993). Bergman's novel The Best Intentions (1993) was based on his parents' lives, and the screenplay for the 1992 film on the same subject. Private Conversations (1996) dealt with the extra-marital affair of Ingmar's mother, Anna with a student-priest, Thomas.
In October 2001 Bergman announced his plans to make a sequel to Scenes from a Marriage with the 78-year old Erland Josephson and the 62-year old Liv Ullmann who also were members of the original cast in 1973. He wrote the screenplay for Liv Ullmann's film Faithless (2000) and two years later Bergman had a new television production under way - Saraband (2003), saying it would be his last picture. Bergman shot the chamber piece on digital video. "Saraband may be Bergman's final primal scream, which his art and craft give the severe majesty of a Bach sello suite," wrote Richard Corliss in Time (August 29, 2005). The last period of his Bergman spent his time on Farö mostly reading and talking with his friends on the phone. Bergman died on July 30, 2007, on Farö, at the age of 89 .
For further reading: Ingmar Bergman: PM. by Jörn Donner (2009); Lusten och dämonerna: Boken om Bergman by Mikael Timm (2008); Ingmar Bergman: Bilder, ed. Lasse Bergström (2008); Tre dagböcker by Maria von Rosen (2004); The Films of Ingmar Bergman by Jesse Kalin ( 2003); Ingmar Bergman: His Life and Films by Jerry Vermilye (2002); I begynnelsen var ordet. Ingmar Bergman och hans tidigare författarskap by Maaret Koskinen (2002); Ingmar Bergman: Magician and Prophet by Mark Gervais (1999); Ingmar Bergman: His Films and Career by Jerry Vermilye (1998); Gender and Representation in the Films of Ingmar Bergman by Marilyn Johns Blackwell (1997); Between stage and Screen by Egil Tornqvist (1996); Bergman's List, ed. by Gunnar Bergdahl, foreword by Woody Allen, afterword by Jörn Donner (1995); Spel och speglingar. Ingmar Bergmans filmiska estetik by Maaret Koskinen (1993); Ingmar Bergman by Peter Cowie (1992), Ingmar Bergman by Lise-Lote Marker and Frederick J. Marker (1992); The Influence of Existentialism on Ingmar Bergman by Charles B. Ketcham (1988); Ingmar Bergman: A guide to References and Resources by Birgitta Steene (1982); Ingmar Bergman by Peter Cowie (1982); Ingmar Bergman Directs by John Simon (1972); Djävulens ansikte by Jörn Donner (1962). Bergman's influence on other directors: Woody Allen, Andrei Tarkovsky - see under Arkady Strugatski. Note: Eino Kaila's Persoonallisuus (translated into Swedish under the title Personlighetens psykologi) was among the works, that Ingmar Bergman highly valued.
Plays, screenplays, short stories, novels, essays, memoirs: