Ingmar Bergman: The Poet With a Camera or 3 Most Eminent His Films

This fall New Tretyakov gallery launches a retrospective of the famous Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. In order to answer such questions as "Who is Ingmar Bergman?", "What is he famous for?" IN VISIBLE made a special article about this film director.

by Sofia Barysheva


Ingmar Bergman is one of the greatest cinematic innovators. He stood alongside such film directors as Federico Fellini and Akira Kurosawa at the pinnacle of serious filmmaking. This man made a huge impact on different filmmakers, including Woody Allen, who once said that Bergman is "probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera."

Ingmar Bergman broke upon the international film scene in the mid-1950s with such films as The Seventh Seal (1957) and Wild Strawberries (1957). Also, in the mid-1960s he directed another one famous picture - Persona (1966). Later this films became symbols of his career.

Over more than 40 years of his career, Bergman has produced about 50 films. His creation centred around two themes - the relationship between mankind and God and the relationship between sexes.

«ergman is inherent in the anti-romantic and post-religious vision. It's important to notice that one of the central aspects of the creation is breaking boundaries between the performance and the performer, the actor and the person. If we take a look at his works, we will find out that his movies are recordings of personal relationships.
Wild Strawberries: memories and sterile life
This beautifully written and expertly filmed picture launched the international career of its director and made its main actor, Max von Sydow, a star. During The Seventh Seal Bergman tries to find an answer to the question "What is there after death?". The whole film literally breathes an extraordinary authenticity. It's no coincidence that Bergman places his characters into medieval context. Here we see the presence of the plague which gives the world an apocalyptic scenario when people are on the edge between life and death.
The film I will constantly go back to – Wild Strawberries. Produced in 1957, this picture provides the viewer with a compassionate view of life. The plot of Wild Strawberries is based on the main character – 76-year-old Professor Isak Borg. He travels by car from Stockholm to Lund with his daughter-in-law in order to receive an honorary doctorate. During his journey, Isak recalls his past. He thinks about the girl he used to love who married his brother, about his own bad marriage. This travel to the past allows the main character to rethink his own life and to find out where he was wrong.
The Seventh Seal: meaning of human life
Also, it's important to notice that the theme of the relationships between the two generations stands in the first place. We see that Isak's son takes after his father a lot. He is strict, so serious and meticulous. And isn't it good for the young man? Absolutely not. That is no coincidence that most of the film was shot deep in the Swedish countryside. According to Bergman's idea, Wild Strawberries's characters pass through the natural world which instructs them. The aim of that is to realise how life can become atrophied. And unfortunately, it often repeats from one generation to another. The problematic of the film is so close to us. That still makes Bergman's Wild Strawberries actual, with its Christian insistence on the possibility of reconciliation and redemption.
Opinions still differ about Bergman's film directed in 1966. Persona is a picture about an actress and her psychiatric nurse starring Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson. Elisabeth Vogler (Liv Ullman) is suffering from a psychological breakdown. Suddenly, during her performance at the theatre, she stops talking. After this accident, the actress is placed in a psychiatric facility. Here she meets a nurse - Alma (Bibi Anderson). She takes care after the actress. One day the doctor supervising Elisabeth Vogler comes up with an unusual idea. She offers Elisabeth to lend her summer house near the sea for the duration of her recovery. So Alma and her famous patient go to this place together.
Bergman tries to figure out how to relate to death. In order to do that he makes a knight the main character. Antonius Block is a strong figure of the modern believing man. He doesn't believe anymore in a "logical" system that explains the creation and the functioning of the world. Antonius is absolutely unaware of human existence after death. This is the way he seeks an answer.
Persona: strangest and sensually brilliant
The most famous scene is a chess game. The personified Death in black clothes appears in front of the knight. Antonius Block offers her to play in order to "know to what extent he will be able to resist him, and if giving checkmate to Death can save his life".

The chess game with the Death is a metaphor. It symbolises the awareness of the end of life. And only at this critical moment, the main character realises that he has found the sense and the aim of his life.

The Seventh Seal is more than just a film. It's a complex work about the true sense of being in the world, about the true meaning of human life.
Here in this house, two women spend their summer. During the whole film, Elisabeth keeps silent and Alma makes several attempts to open her patient up. However, the nurse notices her personal catharsis. Alma begins to tell about her life, her traumas and problems. It occurs that there is not only one person on the screen who needs help. They both, Alma and Elizabeth, need it.
In this film, you will face endless questioning and discussions about the issue of identity. There's no surprise that the filmmaker adds disturbing montage to the beginning of the film. Here you can see strange and occasionally sexually explicit images which are later used to show the psychological crisis of the film characters.

In the final scenes, Bergman combines two faces: Alma's and Elizabeth's. Two beautiful women became one person. And that is almost a pictorial demonstration of the film's approach to the question of identity and disclosure.
Bergman's film may not appeal to everyone. For somebody they are complicated and not easy to watch. But I think that they are shot so esthetically and psychologically great that all of these works should get the status "must-see". According to my opinion, Ingmar Bergman is an innovator who made a huge exploration of different human conditions: bleakness and despair, hope and regret… He is definitely the "poet with the camera" who travels into the depth of a human's soul.
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