We wrap things up with Fanny and Alexander as our closing-night title. When he is asked to assuage a troubled parishioner’s (Max von Sydow) debilitating fear of nuclear annihilation, Tomas is terrified to find that he can provide nothing but his own doubt. The eighteen-year-old Nelly (Inga Landgré), who lives with her foster mother in a quiet provincial town, is shaken by the sudden arrival of her birth mother (Marianne Löfgren), who eventually takes her to Stockholm—where Nelly receives a crash course in corruption and wrenching heartbreak. Strongly influenced by the neorealist films of Roberto Rossellini, Port of Call is Ingmar Bergman’s most naturalistic work. While isolated together there, the women undergo a mysterious spiritual and emotional transference. 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.
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). Max von Sydow stars as Dr. Vogler, a nineteenth-century traveling mesmerist and peddler of potions whose magic is put to the test in Stockholm by the cruel, eminently rational royal medical adviser Dr. Vergérus (Gunnar Björnstrand). 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. 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. Björnstrand’s gynecologist falls for one of his patients (Yvonne Lombard), while his wife flounces off to Copenhagen to renew her fling with a sculptor (Åke Grönberg). Ingmar Bergman presents the battle of the sexes as a ramshackle, grotesque carnival of humiliation in Sawdust and Tinsel, one of the master’s most vivid early works and his first of many collaborations with the great cinematographer Sven Nykvist. Chock-full of flirtatious propositions and sharp witticisms delivered by such Swedish screen legends as Gunnar Björnstrand and Harriet Andersson, Smiles of a Summer Night is one of cinema’s great erotic comedies.
As the fateful game progresses, and the knight and his squire encounter a gallery of outcasts from a society in despair, Bergman mounts a profound inquiry into the nature of faith and the torment of mortality. The beautifully photographed Winter Light is an unsettling look at the human craving for personal validation in a world seemingly abandoned by God. Inevitably, it is not long before the pair are forced to return to reality. Through the eyes of ten-year-old Alexander, we witness the delights and conflicts of the Ekdahl family, a sprawling bourgeois clan in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Sweden. This gripping film is charged with a nightmarish power rare in the Bergman canon, and contains dreamlike effects that brilliantly underscore the tale’s horrific elements. This retrospective is accompanied by a book that aims to enrich your experience of watching the films. Check it out.
Bergman’s dialogue bubbles with an irony reminiscent of his beloved Molière, and the music of Domenico Scarlatti (performed by Bergman’s fourth wife, Käbi Laretei) underscores the joy that infuses much of the film. 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.
Shame (Skammen) is at once an examination of the violent legacy of World War II and a scathing response to the escalation of the conflict in Vietnam.
One of the most influential films of its time, The Seventh Seal is a stunning allegory of man’s search for meaning and a work of stark visual poetry. A podcast network and website Maj-Britt Nilsson beguiles as an accomplished ballet dancer haunted by her tragic youthful affair with a shy, handsome student (Birger Malmsten). The strangest and most disturbing of the films Ingmar Bergman shot on the island of Fårö, Hour of the Wolf stars Max von Sydow as a haunted painter living in voluntary exile with his wife (Liv Ullmann). When the couple are invited to a nearby castle for dinner, things start to go wrong with a vengeance, as a coven of sinister aristocrats hastens the artist’s psychological deterioration.
What follows is one of Bergman’s darkest and most fearful visions, as the drowned-in-drink Abel and Max’s ex-wife, cabaret singer Manuela (Liv Ullmann), feel increasingly unwelcome in a menacing and destitute city, eyed by the police as well as a scientist with diabolical intentions.
Regarded as one of the most sexually provocative films of its day, Ingmar Bergman’s The Silence offers a disturbing vision of emotional isolation in a suffocating spiritual void.
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. Originally conceived as a five-hour, six-part television miniseries, the film is also presented in its three-hour theatrical cut.
So the legendary lover ascends from hell and sets about seducing an innocent pastor’s daughter, Britt-Marie (Bibi Andersson). The films showcased in our new collection of early works by Martin Scorsese are deeply influenced by the director’s life in New York City and the experiences of his family and friends. Bergman’s first color film since All These Women, The Passion of Anna is a sequel of sorts to Shame. Intricately structured and technically accomplished, Thirst is an often dazzling examination of people burdened by the past and united in isolation.
Over the course of a day and a long, painful night that the two spend together after an extended separation, they finally confront the bitter discord of their relationship. The sharply written and impeccably performed After the Rehearsal, originally made for television, pares away all artifice to examine both the allure and the cost of a life in the theater. Inspired by the earthy eroticism of Harriet Andersson, in the first of many roles for him, Ingmar Bergman turned in this work of stunning maturity, a sensual and ravaging tale of young love. A celebration of love and forgiveness that exhibits a profound appreciation for the artifice and spectacle of the theater, The Magic Flute is among the most exquisite opera films ever made.
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