This chapter is a reading of Ingmar Bergman’s last film, Saraband, directed for Swedish public service television in 2003. The film, which is structured like a chamber play, offers a kind of summary of Bergman’s cinematic universe, with a number of intertextual connections to several of his most important works, including Wild Strawberries (1957), The Magician (1958), Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1972), and, especially, Scenes from a Marriage (1973); Saraband can actually be interpreted as the sequel to the latter. Saraband contains open and hidden allusions to theological questions that have been recurrent in Bergman’s work. The mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) and his interpretation of Heaven and Hell, and especially the world of spirits, is present in allusions and conversations, as well as the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) with his preludes to Existentialism. The reading of the film is guided by the concept of liminality. The characters are all in different stages of liminalities; and the borders between the living and the dead, as well as between one human soul and another, are constantly transcended or problematized. Bergman also returns to the kind of self-reflexive narration that he once introduced in Persona through the use of black-and-white film stills, and characters addressing the audience through the ‘fourth wall’. The film reflects upon itself as an artefact and as a work of fiction. This self-reflexivity, finally, is seen as the ‘ghost’, working in the machine of Bergman’s cinematic storytelling.
This chapter argues that we can compare key elements in the work of Ingmar Bergman with ideas in the Kleinian tradition of psychoanalytic theory, including specific concepts such as ‘the depressive position’ and the significance of ‘envy’. In particular, the chapter tracks the importance of narrative integration, a key concept from Kleinian aesthetics, in specific passages, paying attention to the details of film style. The chapter considers two films from the 1950s: Sawdust and Tinsel and Dreams, focusing on scenes and sequences where dialogue is absent or minimal. Ingmar Bergman’s continuing engagement with the aesthetics of silent cinema is explored with further reference to key films of that era, which he continued to be fascinated by. The chapter aims to show how an aesthetic influenced by silent cinema is integrated in key passages of the chosen films to explore psychological conflict and reparation. Patterns representing the characters’ inner struggles, in both works, are seen to diverge to an extent from the unresolved conflicts in the influential silent classics that continued to inspire Bergman’s creative methods. The analysis attends to the way both works represent a balance between the inner world of the leading characters and a vivid representation of the social world. Building on established critical writing about these films, the author aims to show that this psychologically intense filmmaking is simultaneously engaged with social conflicts, a balance that accords with work that has sought to reveal the social and political dimensions of Kleinian theory.
This book on Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman contains eighteen new scholarly chapters on the director’s work, mainly in the cinema. Most of the contributors—some Swedish, others American or British—have written extensively on Bergman before, some for decades. Bergman is one of the most written-about artists in film history and his fame still lingers all over the world, as was seen in the celebrations of his centenary in 2018. The book was specifically conceived at that time with the aim of presenting fresh angles on his work, although several chapters also focus on traditional aspects of Bergman’s art, such as philosophy and psychology. Ingmar Bergman: An Enduring Legacy thus addresses a number of essential topics which have not featured in Bergman studies before, such as the director’s relations with Hollywood and transnational film production. It also deals at length with Bergman’s highly sophisticated use of film music and with his prominence as a writer of autobiographical literature, as well as with the intermedial relations to his films that this perspective inevitably entails. Finally, the book addresses Bergman’s complex relations to Swedish politics. Many different approaches and methods are employed in the book in order to show that Bergman remains a relevant and important artist. The analyses generally focus on some of his most memorable films, like Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona, and Fanny and Alexander; but some rarer material, including Hour of the Wolf, The Lie, and Autumn Sonata, is discussed as well.
This book on Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman contains eighteen new scholarly chapters on the director’s work, mainly in the cinema. Most of the contributors—some Swedish, others American or British—have written extensively on Bergman before, some for decades. Bergman is one of the most written-about artists in film history and his fame still lingers all over the world, as was seen in the celebrations of his centenary in 2018. The book was specifically conceived at that time with the aim of presenting fresh angles on his work, although several chapters also focus on traditional aspects of Bergman’s art, such as philosophy and psychology. Ingmar Bergman: An Enduring Legacy thus addresses a number of essential topics which have not featured in Bergman studies before, such as the director’s relations with Hollywood and transnational film production. It also deals at length with Bergman’s highly sophisticated use of film music and with his prominence as a writer of autobiographical literature, as well as with the intermedial relations to his films that this perspective inevitably entails. Finally, the book addresses Bergman’s complex relations to Swedish politics. Many different approaches and methods are employed in the book in order to show that Bergman remains a relevant and important artist. The analyses generally focus on some of his most memorable films, like Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona and Fanny and Alexander; but some rarer material, including Hour of the Wolf, The Lie, and Autumn Sonata, is discussed as well.
This chapter begins by setting Bergman in his Nordic context and looking at the advantages and disadvantages that this context implied. It then describes his early career and the crucial moment in the mid-1950s when he won a major prize in Cannes and his films were bought for US distribution. His two successive Academy Awards for Best Foreign-Language Picture were followed by more severe, experimental works such as The Silence and Persona. In 1973 Bergman made the TV series Scenes from a Marriage, which proved a massive success with the public at home and abroad. Three years later, he went into self-imposed exile in Germany while being investigated for tax fraud—a charge of which he was exonerated. In 1982 he returned to Sweden to make the most celebrated and best-loved film of his career, Fanny and Alexander. He then retired from the cinema, concentrating on producing works for television and the stage in the next two decades. His memoirs appeared in 1987. The chapter concludes by analysing the reasons for his abiding reputation as a major auteur, citing the opinions of numerous peers and contemporaries. His influence on other filmmakers is noted. So is the continuing popularity of his films on DVD and other platforms, as well as the staging as plays of some of his films all around the world.
The soundscape of Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night
Comedy is not the first thing that comes to mind when contemplating the films of Ingmar Bergman, who is primarily known for brooding atmospheres, psychological tension, and heavy themes of love, faith, and infidelity. Similar themes are encountered in his comedic films, where he uses the soundtrack to trigger laughs and drive tragicomic tensions. This chapter examines how tragedy and comedy are expressed in the sonic world of Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night (1955). Music in the film—comprised of selections from the classical music canon, sacred music, and music by Erik Nordgren—is better understood through the comedic theories of Henri Bergson, who writes about how laughter arises ‘in response to the mechanical encrusted on the living’. The mechanical is elucidated through Nordgren’s musical cues and is even associated with sound effects and vocalizations. Bergman’s soundtrack challenges the generic boundaries of comedy, highlighting the tragicomic aspects of protagonists and plot. An analysis of the sonic events leading to the film’s climax reveals how music plays a powerful role as a prime cinematic force underlying thematic tensions—regarding religion, and faith and doubt in love—eventually helping move the narrative through tears towards laughter. When Bergman offers a comic moment, it is fleeting, as the tragic is never far behind. Entwined in the tragic and comic, acting as a driving force, is Bergman’s soundtrack.
Using Lacanian psychoanalysis, Derridean deconstruction, and queer theory, this chapter explores the thematic ramifications of the three-frame shot of an erect penis in first few seconds of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona. Ultimately arguing that the character of Elisabet, who rejects the false sincerity of speech for the productively duplicitous practice of writing, represents radical queer negativity, this study presents a new reading of Persona that celebrates its subversive power.
This chapter discusses the creative playfulness in the screenwriting process of Ingmar Bergman’s filmmaking. The process of writing from notes and drafts to finished screenplays is examined from the perspective of genetic criticism in combination with perspectives on screenwriting as an intermediate process across media and in stages. The notion of play refers both to Bergman’s method of creative writing and to the playful dimension of the finished artwork, i.e. the films and screenplays. Play is understood in terms of transcendence between the fictional and the real on various levels. Most importantly, the chapter focuses on play in the ambivalence of agency in Bergman’s notebooks—that is transgressions between author, narrator, and character—that continues in the aesthetics of self-reflexivity and auto-fiction in the screenplays and in the films. The Ingmar Bergman Archives, where his notes and screenplay drafts are collected and digitized, allow such an examination of the writing process. The archive consists of the donation of Bergman’s personal collection of notes, drafts, letters, and other documents—personal and professional—from his early career in the 1930s until the last productions in the early 2000s, across several media and art forms.
This chapter argues that Bergman deviated from his highly critical depictions of bourgeois life in the films of the 1960s and 1970s—from Persona (1966) to the television series Scenes from a Marriage (1973) —in Fanny and Alexander (1982), his final contribution to films made for the cinema. Bergman himself came from an upper-class bourgeois background, and by his own account he did not take an interest in politics until the mid-1960s. He sided with Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic party at that time, a stance that certainly represented a sort of break with his family background. It is argued here that Bergman obviously profited from this connection to contemporary power politics, by obtaining official support for his work, both in the theatre and in film. However, Bergman temporarily broke off with Sweden in the aftermath of his being charged with tax evasion in 1976. The author argues that Bergman’s return to Sweden with Fanny and Alexander in the early 1980s coincided with a new Zeitgeist, in which the country’s Socialist past came under much critical scrutiny. It was in this new political climate that Bergman chose to celebrate the bourgeois society in which he was raised and at the same time denigrate enemies, like Uppsala philosophy professor Ingemar Hedenius, a strong advocate of scientific positivism and atheism, who appears in several Bergman film as the arch rationalist Vergérus. In Fanny and Alexander, this figure is—somewhat surprisingly and ambiguously—depicted as the Lutheran clergyman.
Classical music in the lms of Ingmar Bergman—a lecture-recital
From the earliest decades of sound cinema, films have incorporated classical and popular music in their soundtracks, both on screen as part of the action and off screen. One of the first major directors to make classical music a regular feature was Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman, who largely eschewed traditional soundtrack scores in favour of pre-existing music, incorporated this material into the lives of his characters, and found artistic inspiration in the lives of several Western classical composers. This chapter explores the appearance, function, and meaning of classical music in Bergman’s films, from his earliest in the 1940s to his final film in 2003. Patterns of musical use through his oeuvre suggest a conceptual framework that differentiates three ways in which such music appears onscreen: music heard (sound), music performed (act), and music sensed (presence). A series of case studies, from It Rains on Our Love (1946), Music in Darkness (1948), To Joy (1950), Summer Interlude (1951), Waiting Women (1952), Wild Strawberries (1957), The Silence (1963), Autumn Sonata (1978), In the Presence of a Clown (1997), and Saraband (2003), demonstrate how Bergman’s portrayals of musical interaction offer a sophisticated array of encoded sounds, performance dynamics, and historical meanings that resonate through the cinematic text.