Greatest Swedish artists of all time: Ingmar Bergman

Does anyone watch Ingmar Bergman films anymore? Well they do in Sweden where he's still a major figure with his own foundation dedicated to preserving his incredibly artistry. Born in 1918 he only died in 2007 and in his long life managed to direct and write a staggering amount of films (over 60) and plays (over 170).  Most of his films were set in the Swedish landscape and have themes of life and death, loneliness, religious faith. They focus almost entirely on families and relationships. Serious stuff that even he admitted could be kind of depressing!

I saw his films firstly as a teenager. 'The Serpent's Egg' (1978), one of his few English language films that gets mostly bad reviews, though I thought it was pretty amazing when I was 15. It's 1920's Berlin with Liv Ullman and David Carradine. Ingmar must have been impressed with those high kicks on Kung Fu as I was! It's super intense like 'Autumn Sonata' (1978) which I saw the same year, also starring Liv Ullman and the beautiful Ingrid Bergman. They play a mother and daughter in conflict over Ingrid's parental neglect due to her concert pianist career. It's great though you've got to be in the mood.

It was seeing his earlier films that I really became a fan. The films made in the 50's and 60's. They're just masterpieces of filmmaking. Why? Well visually they are superb. Many are in black and white and the tonal contrast and general compositional invention are just so beautiful to watch. And the plots and themes have the mystery of life and nature in them. Always with the human face at the centre in close up. The beautiful human face. A great film can still remind you how noble or tragic human beings can be.  They move along at a heartbeats pace, so if you want IronMan 2 forget it.

It's hard to find a good You Tube clip with english subtitles. There really isn't any. You just have to buy the films. Some of them have Spanish and Russian subtitles with dubbing too which can be really funny. But you can still see the visuals and get some idea. I've chosen a trailer of  'Persona' (1966) which is about an actress recovering from a nervous breakdown who develops an intense relationship with her nurse. The music isn't the original music. With Ingmar Bergman you really have to see the whole film to really get it. Seeing a scene or trailer perhaps can put you off. But don't be. For me he is the absolute greatest Swedish artist and one of the world's greatest ever.

My favourite Ingmar Bergman films.
Winter Light
Wild Stawberries
Fanny and Alexander
The Seventh Seal
Through a glass darkly
The Ingmar Bergman Foundation website is a fantastic website to visit if you're interested in his films.
Here is a great interview with the American director Martin Scorcese about Ingmar Bergman's films.

Read other greatest Swedish artists of all time: Abba


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