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Ingmar Bergman (1918–2007)

Author of The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography

197+ Works 4,296 Members 62 Reviews 9 Favorited

About the Author


Works by Ingmar Bergman

Images: My Life in Film (1990) 277 copies
The Seventh Seal [1957 film] (1957) — Director — 208 copies
Fanny and Alexander [novel] (1982) — Director/Screenwriter — 171 copies
The Best Intentions (1991) 164 copies
Wild Strawberries [1957 film] (1957) — Director/ Screenwriter; Director — 124 copies
Persona [1966 film] (1966) — Director / Screenwriter — 114 copies
Private Confessions (1996) 101 copies
Sunday's Children (1993) 79 copies
Autumn Sonata [1978 film] (1978) — Director — 58 copies
The Magic Flute [1975 film] (1975) — Director — 57 copies
Smiles of a Summer Night [1955 film] (1955) — Director/Screenwriter — 55 copies
Face to Face [1975 film] (1976) 54 copies
Autumn Sonata [screenplay] (1978) 42 copies
The Silence [1963 film] (1963) — Director/Screenwriter — 40 copies
Winter Light [1962 film] (1962) — Director/Screenwriter — 35 copies
The Magician [1958 film] (1958) 32 copies
Through a Glass Darkly [1961 film] (1961) — Director/Screenwriter — 30 copies
Summer With Monika [1953 film] (1953) — Director/Screenwriter — 26 copies
Torment [1944 film] — Screenwriter — 25 copies
The Passion of Anna [1969 film] (1969) — Director — 23 copies
Saraband [2003 TV movie] (2006) — Director — 23 copies
The Fifth Act (1994) 22 copies
Summer Interlude [1951 film] (1951) — Director — 21 copies
Shame [1968 film] (1968) 20 copies
Fanny & Alexander (1982) 20 copies
Three Diaries (2005) 19 copies
Filmerzählungen (1981) 15 copies
To Joy [1950 film] (1950) 12 copies
A Lesson in Love [1954 film] (1954) — Director — 12 copies
Thirst [1949 film] — Director — 11 copies
Port of Call [1948 film] (1948) 11 copies
Saraband [screenplay] (2003) 11 copies
Faithless [2000 film] (2000) — Screenwriter — 10 copies
Criterion 101 — Director — 9 copies
The Rite [1969 TV movie] — Director/Screenwriter — 8 copies
The Magic Lantern, Part 2 (1987) 7 copies
All These Women [1964 film] — Director — 6 copies
The Touch [1971 film] — Director — 6 copies
Bergman Island [2004 TV movie] (2009) — Actor — 4 copies
Scenariusze (1987) 4 copies
Cuaderno de trabajo (2018) 3 copies
A Ship Bound for India [1947 film] — Director — 3 copies
Faithless: Three Novellas (2001) 3 copies
The Best Intentions [1992 film] (1992) — Screenwriter — 3 copies
Niños de domingo (2022) 2 copies
Il giorno finisce presto (2008) 2 copies
The Image Makers [2000 TV Movie] (1998) — Director — 2 copies
Rodjeni u nedelju (2011) 2 copies
Képek (1992) 2 copies
Slike (1996) 1 copy
Pazar çocuğu (1995) 1 copy
The Rite 1 copy
Stilheden 1 copy
Fanny et Alexandre (2013) 1 copy
Woman Without a Face [1947 film] — Author — 1 copy
Une affaire d'âme (2002) 1 copy
Obrazy 1 copy
Bergman (2007) 1 copy
Filmtrilogi (1963) 1 copy
Arbetsboken 1975-2001 (2018) 1 copy
Arbetsboken 1955-1974 (2018) 1 copy
Piąty akt 1 copy
Cuatro obras 1 copy
İmgeler 1 copy
Ingmar Bergman (1977) 1 copy
Sarabanda (2005) 1 copy
Skepp till Indialand [1947 film] — Director — 1 copy
Perekonnatriloogia (2018) 1 copy

Associated Works


Common Knowledge



Recent viewings in Experimental Film and Video (April 2013)


freixas | 2 other reviews | Mar 31, 2023 |
Essential reading to Ingmar Bergman fans, this book includes his ruminations on films throughout his career. First published in 1990 when he was 72 and eight years past his final theatrical film, Fanny and Alexander, this has very much the feel of an artist looking back on his body of work and sharing his thoughts and memories of his journey. He quotes from his journals, tells anecdotes about the making of almost all of his films, and often criticizes his work looking back on it decades later. That’s one of the most striking things, reading in his own words just how much angst he felt about his professional and personal life. He was very sensitive and hard on himself and those around him, and writes without mincing words. Many of his films are masterpieces and many more are very good, but even for them, he spends a lot of time finding faults and explaining what he should have done better.

The book spans his career (barring his television work which continued on sporadically over the next 13 years), but the coverage of his films is rather uneven. There is a semblance of structure applied in sections like “Dreams Dreamers” which group films with similar themes, but overall it lacks organization and there are bits that could have used editing. On the other hand it’s an organic work, feels like sitting with the old master, and often provided wonderful insights into films I absolutely adore.

Here are some notable bits I picked up along the way:

- Wild Strawberries (1957) – “I was feuding bitterly with my parents. I couldn’t talk to my father and didn’t even want to. Mother and I tried time and again for a temporary reconciliation, but there were too many skeletons in our closets, too many poisonous misunderstandings. We were making the effort, since we so wanted peace between us, but we kept failing. I imagine that one of the most impelling forces behind Wild Strawberries could be found in that situation. I tried to put myself in my father’s place and sought explanations for the bitter quarrels with my mother. I was quite sure I had been an unwanted child … Later, my mother’s diary verified this notion of mine: faced with this wretched, almost dying child, she had feelings that were decidedly ambivalent.”

- Wild Strawberries (1957) – “Isak Borg equals me. I B equals Ice and Borg (the Swedish word for fortress). Simple and facile. I had created a figure who, on the outside, looked like my father but was me, through and through. I was then thirty-seven, cut off from all human relations. It was I who had done the cutting off, presumably as an act of self-affirmation. I was a loner, a failure, I mean a complete failure. Though successful. And clever. And orderly. And disciplined. … I didn’t know then, and even today I don’t know fully, how through Wild Strawberries I was pleading with my parents: see me, understand me, and – if possible – forgive me.

- On making use of his personal demons in his art: “Although I am a neurotic person, my relation to my profession has always been astonishingly non-neurotic. I have always had the ability to attach my demons to my chariot. And they have been forced to make themselves useful. At the same time they have still managed to keep on tormenting and embarrassing me in my private life.”

- On American filmmaking in the 1940’s, when he started working at Svensk Filmindustri: “This technique was extremely obvious, almost rigid; the audience must never have the slightest doubt where they were in a story. Nor could there be any doubt about who was who, and the transitions between various points of the story were to be treated with care. High points should be allotted and placed at specific places in the script, and the culmination had to be saved for the end. Dialogue had to be kept short. Literary terms were forbidden.”

- Lorens Marmstedt’s advice to Bergman which he said was “invaluable to me throughout my professional life”: “When you and your pals see your dailies, you’re in a state of emotional chaos. No matter what, you want everything to be good. That’s the reason you have a natural tendency to make excuses for your failures and overestimate what you’re seeing. All of you are supporting one another. This is normal, but it’s also dangerous. Submit yourself to a psychological exercise. Don’t be enthusiastic. Don’t be critical either. Put yourself at point zero. Don’t let your emotions get involved with what you’re seeing. They you’ll see everything.”

- Thirst (1949): “Birgit Tengroth also made a directorial contribution that I will not forget: it taught me something new and decisive. The two women are sitting together in the summer twilight, sharing a bottle of wine. Birgit is rather drunk and gets a cigarette from Mimi, who also lights it for her. Then Mimi slowly brings the burning match toward her own face and holds it for a moment by her right eye before it goes out. This was Birgit Tengroth’s idea. I remember it clearly since I had never done anything like that. To build the plot with small, almost imperceptible, suggestive details became a special component in my future filmmaking.”

- Sawdust and Tinsel (1953): “The drama had its origin in a dream. I depicted the dream in the flashback about Frost and Alma. It’s rather easy to interpret. A few years earlier I had been madly in love. Pretending professional interest, I enticed my beloved to tell me in detail about her multifaceted erotic experiences. The peculiar excitement of a fresh jealousy over her long-pat actions scratched and tore at my innards and my genitals. The most primitive rituals of shame became a permanent alloy in my jealousy. Jealousy became a kind of dynamite that nearly exploded out of me, its creator.”

- From the Life of the Marionettes (1980): “Another mistake, as big as a beauty mark, is the letter that Peter writes but never mails. It doesn’t make sense psychologically. … Unfortunately, on this point I did not follow William Faulkner’s sound advice: kill your darlings. In other words, I should have cut it.”

- The Seventh Seal (1957); it was fascinating to me to find that Death playing chess was a mural by Albertus Pictor from 1480 and was in the Täby Church just outside Stockholm; “I checkmate thee,” indeed: “I sometimes accompanied my father when he went to preach in some country church. Like all churchgoers have at times, I let my mind wander as I contemplated the altarpieces, triptychs, crucifixes, stained-glass windows, and murals. I would find Jesus and the two robbers in blood and torment, and Mary leaning on St. John: Woman, behold thy son, behold thy mother. Mary Magdalene, the sinner, who had been the last to sleep with her? The Knight playing chess with Death. Death sawing down the Tree of Life, a terrified wretch wringing his hands at the top of it. Death leading the dance to the Land of Shadows, wielding his scythe like a flag, the congregation capering in a long line, and the jester bringing up the rear.”

- The Seventh Seal (1957): “What attracted me was the whole idea of people traveling through the downfall of civilization and culture, giving birth to new songs. One day when I was listening to the final choral in [Carl Orff’s] Carmina Burana, it suddenly struck me that I had the theme for my next film!”

- The Seventh Seal (1957): “For him [studio head Carl Anders Dymling] to agree to let me do the film, I had to promise to make the film quickly, in thirty-six days, not including days spent traveling to and from the exteriors. It had to be an extremely inexpensive production. … The stream in the dark forest where the wanderers meet the witch was created with the help of the fire department and actually caused some violent overthrows. If you look carefully, you will see a mysterious light reflecting from behind some trees. That is a window in one of the nearby high-rise apartment buildings.” Is this roughly at 1:11:45?

- The Seventh Seal (1957); this boggles my mind, imagine being one of those tourists: “The final scene when Death dances off with the travelers was, as I said, shot at Hovs hallar. We had packed up for the day because of approaching storm. Suddenly, I caught sight of a strange cloud. Gunnar Fischer hastily set the camera back into place. Several of the actors had already returned to where they were staying, so a few grips and a couple of tourists danced in their place, having no idea what it was all about. The image that later became famous of the Dance of Death beneath the dark cloud was improvised in only a few minutes.”

- The Seventh Seal (1957): “Since at the time I was still very much in a quandary over religious faith, I placed my two opposing beliefs side by side, allowing each to state its case in its own way. In this manner, a virtual cease-fire would exist between my childhood piety and my newfound harsh rationalism. Thus, there are no neurotic complications between the knight and his vassals. Also, I infused the characters of Jof and Mia with something that was very important to me: the concept of the holiness of the human being. If you peel off the layers of various theologies, the holy always remains. … I believe a human being carries his or her own holiness, which lies within the realm of the earth; there are no other-worldly explanations.”

- Through a Glass Darkly (1961): “The Seventh Seal is definitely one of my last films to manifest my conceptions of faith, conceptions I had inherited from my father and carried along with me from childhood. When I made The Seventh Seal, both prayers and invocations to something or someone were central realities in my life; to offer up a prayer was a completely natural act. In Through a Glass Darkly, my childhood inheritance was put to rest. I maintained that every conception of a divine god created by human beings must be a monster, a monster with two faces, or, as Karin puts it, the spider-god.”

- On the “trilogy” of spiritual films, Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Winter Light (1963), and The Silence (1963): “With Vilgot Sjöman’s help I wrote an introductory note [to the publishing of these screenplays together in a book] that explained: “These three films deal with a reduction. Through a Glass Darkly – conquered certainty. Winter Light – penetrated certainty. The Silence – God’s silence – the negative imprint. Therefore, they constitute a trilogy.” The note was written in May 1963. Today I feel that the ‘trilogy’ has neither rhyme nor reason. It was a Schnaps-Idee, as the Bavarians say, meaning that it’s an idea found at the bottom of a glass of alcohol, not always holding up when examined in the sober light of day.”

- Through a Glass Darkly (1961); I was surprised Bergman mentions a suicide so casually: “Gunnar [Björnstrand] portrays a best-selling author: here I wrote of my own situation – that of being successful yet not being recognized or respected. I let David [the character] explore my aborted suicide in Switzerland during the time before Smiles of a Summer Night. The text is hopeless cynical. I let David draw an extraordinarily dubious conclusion from his suicidal attempt: in seeking his own death he finds renewed love for his children.” Bergman does expand on it later in the book as the intention of driving over the edge of a serpentine roadway leading to a hotel near Monte Verita, Italy in 1955, but not going through with after getting a telegram from studio head Carl Anders Dymling to make Last Couple Out (1956).

- Winter Light (1963): “True suffering comes from knowing the commandment of love and seeing how human beings betray themselves and each other when it comes to love. How they defile love. Christ’s clearsightedness must have caused his greatest suffering.”

- Summer Interlude (1950): “I had trouble trying to depict the happiness of youth. I believe the problem is that I myself never felt young, only immature. As a child, I never associated with other young people. I isolated myself from my peers and became a loner. … Summer Interlude has a long history. Its origin, I see now, lies in a rather touching love affair that I had one summer when my family resided on Ornö island. I was sixteen years old and, as usual, was stuck with extra activities during my summer vacation and could only occasionally participate in activities with people my own age. Besides, I did not dress as they did; I was skinny, had acne, and stammered whenever I broke my silence and looked up from reading Nietzsche. … On the far end of this so-called Paradise Island, toward the bay, there lived a girl who was also alone. A timid love grew between us, as often happens when two young lonely people seek each other out.”

- On his least favorite films: “Few of my films do I feel ashamed of or detest for various reasons. This Can’t Happen Here (1950) was the first one; I completed in accompanied by violent inner opposition. The other is The Touch (1971). Both mark the very bottom for me.”

- On influences: “For a long time I had considered making a movie without dialogue. In the 1930’s, a Czech movie director, Gustav Machaty, made two films – Ecstasy and Nocturno – which were both visual narratives, practically without dialogue. I saw Ecstasy when I was eighteen years old, and it deeply affected me. This was partly a natural reaction because, for once, one was allowed to see a nude woman on screen, but more important, because the move told nearly everything through images alone.”

- Summer with Monika (1953) and the absolutely wonderful Harriet Andersson: “I have never made a less complicated film than Summer with Monika. We simply went off and shot it, taking great delight in our freedom. And the public success was considerable. It was immensely gratifying to bring out a natural talent such as Harriet Andersson and watch how she behaved in front of the camera. … Harriet Andersson is one of cinema’s geniuses. You meet only a few of these rare, shimmering individuals on your travels along the twisting road of the movie industry jungle. Here is an example of her talent: The summer has ended. Harry is not at home; Monika goes on a date with a guy named Lelle. At the coffee shop he drops a coin into the jukebox. With the swing music resounding, the camera turns to Harriet. She shifts her glance from her partner straight into the lens. Here is suddenly established, for the first time in the history of film, shameless, direct contact with the viewer.”

- The Passion of Anna (1969): “My philosophy (even today) is that there exists an evil that cannot be explained – a virulent, terrifying evil – and humans are the only animal to possess it. An evil that is irrational and not bound by law. Cosmic. Causeless. Nothing frightens people more than incomprehensible, unexplainable evil.”

- Speaking of the background to Brink of Life (1958), and on his detachment as a father and adultery, a bit shocking how easily he admits this: “I recall that there had been medical attendants stationed in the theaters. People had a tendency to faint from pure fright. I also recall that the medical advisor for the film, Dr. Lars Engstrom, allowed me to be present during a birth at the Karolinska Hospital. It was a traumatic and edifying experience. Even though I was the father of five children by that time, I had never been present at any of the births (that’s how things were back then). Instead, I got drunk or played with my miniature electric trains or went to the movies or rehearsed or worked on a movie or, inappropriately, paid attention to other women. I don’t quite remember the details.”

- On his character: “My own relationship to comedy has been complicated, however, and the difficulties go way back in time. As a child I was considered sullen and too sensitive. From an early age onward it was said that ‘Ingmar has no sense of humor.’”

- Smiles of a Summer Night (1955): “Smiles of a Summer Night further develops themes from A Lesson in Love (1954). It explores the frightening insight that it is possible for two people to love each other even when find it impossible to live together. It also contains a bit of nostalgia, looking back at my own life and my relationship with my daughter, full of great confusion and sorrow.”

- Fanny and Alexander (1982): “Through my playing, I want to master my anxiety, relieve tension, and triumph over my deterioration. I want to depict, finally, the joy that I carry within me in spite of everything, and which I so seldom and so feebly have given attention to in my work. To be able to express the power of action, decisiveness, the vitality, and the kindness. Yes, for once, that would not be a bad idea.”
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1 vote
gbill | 3 other reviews | Feb 16, 2023 |
Like his films, Bergman's memoir dokuments the varieties of human life in an artistically honest way, even the elements we typically avoid or don't acknowledge.

Having closed the book a few minutes ago, my overwhelming feeling is of a warm kinship with young Ingmar. In a different time and place, I think I would have been the best of friends with him.

I sometimes find myself grieving that I only discovered Bergman soon after he died- that I couldn't love him while he was alive. It's a feeling I commonly have for historical figures that I'm interested in but in this case the proximity of his life to mine makes it particularly acute. Knowing the outline of my grandfather's life helps me place Bergman's life in recent history. He was born in 1918, as was my grandfather. After a long career, in 1980 Bergman announced the production of Fanny and Alexander, which would become his last film and one of his most beloved, a couple months after I was born. He died in 2007 and I discovered his work when I viewed The Seventh Seal for the first time in 2009, just before my grandfather died.

At least Bergman's legacy lives on through his films, books (including those written by his lovers, family, admirers, and critics), interviews, and the foundation (ingmarbergman.se/en).
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bibliothecarivs | 7 other reviews | May 15, 2022 |
Vooral heel interessant om het creatieve proces van Ingmar Bergman te volgen. Het leest als een trein. Een aanrader
timswings | 7 other reviews | Nov 21, 2021 |



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Associated Authors

Harriet Andersson Actor, skådespelare
Erland Josephson Actor, skådespelare
Anders Ek Actor
Allan Ekelund Producer


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