Ingmar’s Actors

The Eerie Intensity of Ingrid Thulin

Inside Criterion / On the Channel — Nov 18, 2018


Of all Ingmar Bergman’s favorite performers, Ingrid Thulin—whom the director called “one of the great movie actresses of our time”—had the most chilling screen presence. Trained as a ballerina, she began her journey as an actor at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, and started working regularly with Bergman in the late 1950s, resulting in a close collaboration that would ultimately span ten projects and nearly three decades. Though her roles ran the gamut from a boldly androgynous magician’s assistant (in 1958’s The Magician) to a frumpy school teacher (in 1962’s Winter Light) to a dying woman overcome with incestuous feelings for her sister (in 1963’s The Silence), her approach to these disparate characters was consistent in its enigmatic intensity. Her performances make masterful use of physical details and gestures, often concentrating their power in her penetrating gaze and her grasping hands. And because of how brilliantly she expressed relentless torment, she was used as a foil for some of the more hopeful female figures in Bergman’s dramas, including the vivacious young women Bibi Andersson plays in Brink of Life and The Magician. In the above video, created for the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck, critic Sheila O’Malley celebrates Thulin’s fearless embodiment of Bergman’s obsessions, as well as the versatility that allowed her to both exude immaculate control and hint at a wild, untamable interior life.