Director Spotlight IV: Ingmar Bergman

Director Spotlight is our self-indulgent way to watch movies after movies, do minimal work, and call it productive. We are two great friends who both often enjoy the 90 minute long worlds created by these directors more than the one we are in. We spend most of our time together watching movies, talking about movies, or one-upping each other in our strange encyclopedic knowledge of independent film. We hope that our enthusiasm and love of movies can help encourage readers to perhaps step out of their (Avenger-heavy) comfort zone and join us in the world of pseudo-intellectuals and cinema.

Director Background: 

Ingmar Bergman was a Swedish film director whose extensive filmography grappled with questions of religion, mortality, and relationships in innovative ways. He was born in 1918 and, throughout his life, was heavily involved in many forms of storytelling, from writing his own scripts to directing for the theatre. Bergman was nominated for four Palme D’Ors, the first of which catapulted him to international stardom with “Smiles of A Summer Night” (1955). Bergman’s unique style influenced an entire generation of filmmakers from Cèline Sciamma to David Lynch. While Bergman died in 2007, his films and legacy have changed the course of modern cinema forever.

Loumar and Emiliv’s Picks:

Reasons We Love Ingmar:

Part of what makes Bergman’s films distinctive is their astonishing marriage of cast and dialogue. Bergman often worked with a company of the same actors including Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson, and Max von Sydow; because of his familiarity with them, he was able to write roles that played to their strengths and showcased the full range of their abilities. Ullman, for example, goes from playing a traumatized stage actress in “Persona” to portraying the quiet daughter of a pianist in “Autumn Sonata.” She plays both beautifully and differently, and it was Bergman’s eye who saw that she could do both. Bergman’s films also examine enormous philosophical questions, such as the purpose of faith or the emotional dependencies within families, but he and his actors ground the film’s inquiries in intimate, emotional portraits that make for approachable, recognizably human watching experiences. 

The moods created by Bergman’s films are his major selling point. Using his unconventional filmmaking style, he can put together an atmosphere that adds to the storylines of the films. This first comes from his use of lighting. Whether he be illuminating only half of an actor’s face, utilizing mirrors and windows to taper light across the scene, or conducting shots almost completely in the dark, Bergman’s use of lighting contributes to his films like a member of the cast. 

Although it is not the “Transformers” CGI we’re used to, Bergman’s ability to cut between many images and videos with no explanation seems random yet precise, evoking an intense emotional reaction, such as in the opening montage of “Persona” or near its climax. When the two main characters in the film are arguing, the culmination of this energized moment comes with a split between the two faces, combining them. This is to show even more deeply than just through dialogue that they become emotionally and physically one in the same. 

Bergman utilises cross fades to bridge scenes together and merge ideas. For example, as a guilt-ridden procession in “The Seventh Seal” leaves a town, Bergman fades from the entire procession, to the monks at the end of it, to the bare field they leave behind, emphasizing the toll the plague has been taking on Europe without any dialogue. Through his unexpected stylistic choices, Bergman is able to convey much more emotional and philosophical information than with any one tool. His mastery over the craft of moviemaking allowed him to make intricate films, fascinating audiences with stories and methods for telling them like they’d never seen before.