Cinema and Media Studies Ingmar Bergman
by
Erik Hedling
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 February 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0222

Introduction

Swedish director Ingmar Bergman (b. 1918–d. 2007) was probably one of the most prominent filmmakers of the 20th century. He started his career in film as a scriptwriter for Alf Sjöberg’s film Hets (released as Torment in the United States and as Frenzy in the United Kingdom) in 1944 and made his debut as a director with Kris (Crisis) in 1946. He continued making films through the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s and directed his last film for distribution in the cinemas in 1982: his grand finale, Fanny och Alexander (Fanny and Alexander). He did, however, go on as a scriptwriter and literary author. He also directed a few works for television until 2003, four years before his death at the age of eighty-nine. During all this time he was also active as a highly appreciated theater director, setting up plays primarily at the Royal Dramatic Theatre (Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern) in Stockholm. But it is mainly as the director of a series of highly influential films that his international reputation rests, films for which he usually wrote the manuscripts himself. Among his oeuvre, we find several of the masterpieces of postwar cinema: the dark vision of humanity in the classic Det sjunde inseglet (The Seventh Seal, 1957), the austere modernism in Persona (1966), the brilliantly staged marital conflict in his TV series Scener ur ett äktenskap (Scenes from a Marriage, 1973), and the somewhat unexpected celebration of bourgeois life in Fanny and Alexander. In film-historical terms, Bergman’s works were seminal to the development of the European art cinema, le cinéma d’auteur, in the 1950s. It was also in France that he became internationally famous after the screening of his light comedy Sommarnattens leende (Smiles of a Summer Night, 1955) at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956, where it received the highly coveted Special Jury Prize. After this great success, Bergman was canonized by the writers of influential French film journal Cahiers du Cinéma. Later, he would receive three Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film: for Jungfrukällan (The Virgin Spring, 1960) in 1961, Såsom i en spegel (Through a Glass Darkly, 1961) in 1962, and Fanny and Alexander in 1983. Bergman has often been quoted as a prime influence by leading film directors such as Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Woody Allen, Lars von Trier, and Ang Lee. He is also one of the most chronicled of all film directors, with an almost endless amount of monographs and scholarly articles written about his works; there are still works on Bergman published every year, some of them major ones. His constant themes were the torments of the human soul, the absentness of God, and the humiliation that according to his vision forms the basis of the human condition. His cinematic forms, initially classical in style, grew gradually more toward aesthetic experimentation and modernism in the 1960s, with a return to popular narrative forms in the 1970s and 1980s.

General Overviews

There are literally thousands of critical writings related to Ingmar Bergman’s work, primarily regarding his films. In book form, these writings have sometimes manifested themselves in the shape of monographs, often addressing his films as a whole, thus appearing as general overviews of his work in the cinema. They can be divided into two periods: Early Studies written before Bergman’s final cinema film Fanny and Alexander in 1982, and Later Studies written afterward. The genre is still active, producing a few titles in various languages on a yearly basis.

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