Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ingmar Bergman

I had been meaning to do a spotlight on Ingmar Bergman for a few years but it got pushed behind other retrospectives. A Bergman spotlight would have remained forgotten had it not been for my good friend Sam Juliano (Wonders in the Dark). Sam recently published his top 20 Bergman films:
  1. Wild Strawberries 
  2. Fanny and Alexander

  3. Persona

  4. Cries and Whispers

  5. The Silence

  6. The Magic Flute

  7. Sawdust and Tinsel

  8. Winter Light

  9. The Seventh Seal

  10. Through A Glass Darkly

  11. Smiles of a Summer Night

  12. Scenes of a Marriage

  13. The Magician

  14. Face to Face

  15. Summer Interlude

  16. The Virgin Spring

  17. The Passion of Anna

  18. Autumn Sonata

  19. Shame

  20. Hour of the Wolf
His list inspired me to finally finish my spotlight. My intention was to never match Sam’s top 20 but to view enough films to come up with a top 10. I saw 8 films and combined those with previously viewed Bergman films to come up with the following top 10 list: 

1. The Seventh Seal (1957)

The image of death playing chess is more than enough to rightly give this film the #1 spot. That chess scene manages to describe life in a nutshell.

2. A Winter Light (1963)

There have been many films about a priest's loss of faith but Winter Light is devastating. It encapsulates one of Bergman’s key themes related to God and question of faith but does so in such an intimate manner that it draws the viewer in. Plus, some of the frames recall Bresson (Diary of a Country Priest) and Dreyer (The Passion of Joan of Arc).

3. Shame (1968)

Shame seamlessly integrates three films in one: marital problems, war and survival. The film starts off with razor sharp observations about marriage problems between Jan (Max von Sydow) and Eva (Liv Ullmann). Before one has caught their breath, the film moves towards the harsh reality of war where propaganda and torture are frequently used. As impressive as these sequences are, the film saves the biggest shock until the finale when the couple drift through a vast ocean. This is a film that showcases Bergman's themes of relationship and God but also highlights that he was more than capable of making a bold political statement. 

4. Through a Glass Darkly (1961)

5. Wild Strawberries (1957)

6. The Silence (1963)
7. Scenes from a Marriage (1973) 
8. Persona (1966) 

9. The Virgin Spring (1960) 

A raw powerful film that shows the savage side of man, both in terms of those who commit a crime and those that seek bloody revenge.

10. Summer with Monika (1953) 

If Bergman’s name was not on this film, I would have assumed this was an Italian film. But it is not Italian. Instead, Bergman has shown a seductive, playful side to his craft.

Other Bergman films seen as part of the spotlight: Autumn Sonata (1978), Fanny and Alexander (1982), Cries and Whispers (1972), Smiles on a Summer Night (1955), The Magic Flute (1975). Unfortunately, I was not able to view Hour of the Wolf and The Passion of Anna.

Overall, an absolutely incredible spotlight that shattered my notions about Bergman and helped me view his work in a new light.

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