Summer with Ingmar

On Film / The Daily — May 31, 2018

Two documentaries about Ingmar Bergman premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, presenting the perfect opportunity to check in on the yearlong global celebration of the Swedish director’s centennial. Jane Magnusson’s Bergman — A Year in a Life takes the warts-and-all biographical approach, while Margarethe von Trotta and Felix Moeller’s Searching for Ingmar Bergman is primarily a collection of interviews focusing on the lasting impact of the work.

For Variety’s Owen Gleiberman, Magnusson’s documentary is “one of the most honest and overflowing portraits of a film artist that I can remember seeing.” Magnusson has chosen to focus on 1957, which began with the release of The Seventh Seal in January and then saw Bergman write, shoot, and release Wild Strawberries before the year was out. In between, Bergman made a film for television (Brink of Life), staged four theatrical productions, and juggled relationships with four women.

Gleiberman emphasizes that Magnusson uses 1957 as a sort of prism through which to look backward and forward, creating a composite view of this extraordinary life. Jan Lumholdt also admires Magnusson’s ability to capture a wide range of contradictions. “On the one hand,” he writes at Cineuropa, Bergman is “the undisputed cultural ‘genius,’ reigning over his realm with an iron fist, a textbook example of a hitherto sacred male specimen that’s currently being scrutinized and defrocked for his extensive misconduct. And on the other hand, he’s the celebrated creator of unsurpassed cinema artistry, a grand master of national pride.”

As Todd McCarthy notes in his review for the Hollywood Reporter, von Trotta and Moeller’s film is built around “amiable, knowledgeable, and sometimes revealing exchanges with Bergman colleagues and intellectual fans,” including Liv Ullmann, Carlos Saura, Olivier Assayas, Mia Hansen-Løve, Swedish director Ruben Östlund, and renowned screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière. McCarthy’s verdict? “Reasonably engaging as far as it goes.”

Von Trotta talks with Film Comment editor Nicolas Rapold about the film that inspired her to become a filmmaker, The Seventh Seal, and another favorite: “Persona! It’s astonishing. Nobody is doing a film like this today. It’s courageous and so extreme in its experiments.” Oscilloscope Laboratories will be bringing Searching for Ingmar Bergman to theaters later this year.

In the meantime, retrospectives will carry on rolling out across the land throughout the summer—in Minneapolis, Portland, and Berkeley, for example. And there’s an exhibition focusing on Fanny and Alexander on view at the Embassy of Sweden in Washington D.C. through June 24.

For Bergman diehards, the main event of the summer will be Bergman Week, running from June 25 through July 1 on the island of Fårö, where the director lived and worked for over forty years. Along with screenings of the two documentaries from Cannes as well as Bergman’s own films—and some of these films will be presented in Bergman’s own private cinema—there will be “Bergman Safaris” to the locations of Through a Glass Darkly, Persona, Scenes from a Marriage, and other films. Special guests will include Yorgos Lanthimos and Mia Hansen-Løve, who will talk about shooting her latest project, Bergman Island, featuring Mia Wasikowska, Greta Gerwig, and John Turturro.

The centennial celebration has inspired some terrific artwork, but two projects in particular warrant special mention. First, Polish designer Krzysztof Iwański has created an outstanding poster for the Bergman 100 series that just wrapped at the Film School in Lodz, and you can take a look at it here.

And second, Justin Shamlian has cut two versions of a trailer for the Austin Film Society series Ingmar Bergman: The Darkness currently running at the AFS Cinema through June 27. With the exception of a few shots towards the beginning, the trailers are more or less the same, but the first features an ingenious pairing of rattling clips from the films with a black metal soundtrack from the Swedish band Bathory:


The “Alternate Cut” is just as disturbing but perhaps less of an outright assault on viewers for whom black metal is simply too black and too metal. Here, Shamlian turns to Shostakovich’s String Quartet No 8—because, says Shamlian, “it feels like a fever dream you’re trying desperately to get out of, which is what the series is to me.”


Check the calendar at the Ingmar Bergman Foundation to discover more #Bergman100 events happening throughout the year.

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