Introducing Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema

Production Notes — Nov 11, 2018

Thankfully, Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born, on July 14, 1918, in Uppsala, Sweden, to Erik Bergman, a Lutheran minister, and Karin Bergman (née Åkerblom), a nurse. In the 1978 British television documentary Ingmar Bergman at 60, Bergman describes spying a brown package among the gifts piled under the staircase one childhood Christmas season and knowing, by the shape and weight of it, exactly what lay inside—a film projector. When the fateful morning came, however, the projector went to his older brother, Dag. Ingmar was devastated. A day later, he bought the projector from Dag fair and square, and the rest is history.

With the box set Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema, releasing this November, the Criterion Collection is celebrating the director’s film work with a selection of thirty-nine of his features, including his directorial debut, Crisis (1946), and his farewell, Saraband (2003), completed three and a half years before his death, on July 30, 2007, at the age of eighty-nine. We have programmed the movies with the concept of a film festival in mind, kicking off with an opening-night showing of Smiles of a Summer Night and anchored by three centerpiece programs: a Scenes from a Marriage and Saraband double feature, The Seventh Seal, and Persona. We wrap things up with Fanny and Alexander as our closing-night title. We believe these selections represent some of the pinnacles of Bergman’s filmmaking, as well as moments that forever altered cinema history.

Interspersed among those five programs are nineteen others that present double features and individual titles, several of them previously released by Criterion (such as Summer with Monika, The Magician, and Autumn Sonata) and many of them new to the collection (A Lesson in Love, Brink of Life, and From the Life of the Marionettes, to name a few). When pairing and ordering these films, we thought not necessarily chronologically but in a way that we hope will be thought-provoking—making thematic links, showing both how Bergman developed as an artist and how many of his preoccupations (love, death, faith, intergenerational relationships) remained constant throughout his life.

This retrospective is accompanied by a book that aims to enrich your experience of watching the films. In the main section, you’ll find a chapter on each program in the series. This section includes some of our favorite essays from the body of writing on Bergman’s cinema that we have commissioned from scholars and critics over the past thirty years, as well as a fresh crop of new essays by writers from a wide variety of backgrounds and fields, each of whom contributes his or her unique voice to the ongoing discussion about Bergman’s body of work. In addition, woven throughout the writing about Bergman is a selection of things the filmmaker wrote or said himself, whether in scripts, journals, books, or letters, whether on camera or to another writer.

Bergman once remarked, “I have really thought a lot about where the pressing need to express myself all the time comes from, what it is that actually drives me. And it is simply this one thing of wanting to connect with others, and preferably with as many people as possible.” Fortunately, he was not one to shy away from television interviews or other kinds of publicity, and he seems to have welcomed the opportunity to publicly sort through his creative development and psychological quandaries. On the Blu-rays in this box set, you will find a colorful array of supplementary programs alongside the films, featuring Bergman, his loyal collaborators, and dedicated experts, all of which help to round out the story of this master director. This treasure trove of materials comprises two short documentaries by Bergman, six audio commentaries, thirteen other documentaries, thirty-three archival and recently recorded interviews, five video essays, and eleven introductions to the films by the director himself.

Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema suggests one path for viewing these movies; perhaps your instincts will lead you down another. Our goal is to inspire you to make interesting connections—and, to paraphrase Bergman, as many of them as possible. No matter where you choose to jump in, we hope you will find the experience of watching these films to be an encounter with a great artist that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Check out the trailer for the box set below:

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