Today, the 14th of July, 2014, happens to be the 96th Birth Anniversary of the most famous Swedish Film director ever, Ernst Ingmar Bergman. He is recognised as the most accomplished and influential auteur, to come out of, one of the most scenic and breathtakingly beautiful Scandinavian countries in the world, Sweden.

Ingmar Bergman with the two Ingrid Bergman's. Left - The Hollywood Actress Middle - The Director  Right - The Director's Wife

Ingmar Bergman with the two Ingrid Bergman’s.
Left – The Hollywood Actress
Middle – The Director
Right – The Director’s Wife

Ernst Ingmar Bergman, was born on the 14th Of July, 1918, in Uppsala, Uppsala Län, Sweden. Bergman’s father was a Lutheran minister (later chaplain to the King of Sweden) and his mother a nurse. Though brought up in a conservative religious setting, with an older brother and sister, Ingmar Bergman lost faith when he was just eight years old. Bergman was the black sheep of the family, and was later estranged from his father for years. His love for the theatre began around the same time he lost his faith. By nine, he was making his own scenery, marionettes, and lighting effects and giving puppet productions, in which he spoke all the parts. In 1937, he entered Stockholm University College, from which he did not graduate, but was involved in their theatre group at the time. He was an out and out film buff by then. At the time he wrote many plays, an opera, and became an assistant director at a theatre. By 1941, Bergman began his film career by rewriting scripts, and soon he wrote his first screenplay, for the Alf Sjöberg film, Hets (1944) a.k.a. Torment. A couple of years later, Bergman directed his very first movie, Kris (1946) a.k.a. Crisis.
Scenes from a MarriageYear 1999, there was an ‘Ingmar Bergman film festival’ going on in South Delhi, New Delhi, India. I had completed my (Bachelors) final year at DU (University of Delhi), and was still residing in North Campus, Kingsway Camp, North Delhi. We students went all the way to South Delhi after a quick lunch at ISH (International Students Hostel), at 1p.m, and reached the gates of the Festival Hall by around 3p.m, and queued outside for the movie, Bergman’s Scener ur Ett Äktenskap (1973) a.k.a. Scenes from a Marriage, which was to start at around 6:30pm. The movie was free, first-cum-first basis. The queue was full of youngsters, both from DU and JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University). Luckily we were right in the front of the queue.

The whole time to travel, and hours waiting outside in the hot sun, finally paid off. Scenes from a Marriage was an excellent movie, and one of my all time favourites till date. Scenes from a Marriage is exactly what the title suggest. It’s literally scenes from a marriage, of a couple who separate, divorce, meet again years later, meet yet again years later, meet again in their middle age, and talk. Yes, the whole film is an analysis of marital (un)bliss, through excellent dialogue delivery and superb acting skills. For the length of the entire movie we mostly just see two people, the husband and wife, fighting, pleading, discussing, and trying to understand one another. The movie stars Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann as the husband and wife, respectively.
Autumn SonataThe following day or so, they were showing Höstsonaten (1978) a.k.a. Autumn Sonata, starring Hollywood actress, of Swedish roots, Ingrid Bergman (no relation of Ingmar Bergman), alongside with Liv Ullmann. Unfortunately I could not make it for a movie I was really keen on, especially as am a fan of actress Ingrid Bergman. Some of my fellow Indian University students managed to catch it though. And they had fun taunting me at missing out on such a fine film, cause I was late at our rendezvous point at the Bus Stop. This was long before students could afford mobile phones. My loss, and am yet to watch this 70’s Ingmar Bergman gem.

However, some years later, I did manage to watch Khalid Mohamed’s, very well made, Bollywood tribute to Bergman’s Autumn Sonata, i.e. Tehzeeb (2003), starring Shabana Azmi, Urmila Matondkar, Arjun Rampal and Dia Mirza. The story, credited to Ingmar Bergman, is about a tense reunion of a modern day mother, Rukhsana (Shabana Azmi) and her estranged elder married daughter, Tehzeeb (Urmila Matondkar), due to a misunderstanding on the part of the daughter. Tehzeeb keeps blaming her mother for everything assuming the mother never loved her children, while the exact opposite is true. By the time the truth comes out, it’s too late. The Hindi movie is beautifully made, one that Bergman would be proud to be credited with.

Khalid Mohamed’s Bollywood tribute to Bergman

Khalid Mohamed’s Bollywood tribute to Bergman

In June 2002, while working as a journalist here, for the ‘Daily News’ newspaper, I paid tribute to Ingmar Bergman, when Bergman donated his manuscripts, notebooks, plot summaries, unpublished books, and much much more, to the Swedish Film Institute. You can see the online edition of my old article, if you Google out my birth name/full name ‘Nuwan Senadhira + Ingmar Bergman’ (Link – http://archives.dailynews.lk/2002/06/22/fea09.html). During this period, Bergman was working on a sequel to Scenes from a Marriage (1973), i.e. Saraband (2003).

Later in 2002 itself, when I was studying for my MA in International Cinema (2002-2003), at the University of Luton, Luton, UK, I watched Såsom i en Spegel (1961), a.k.a. Through a Glass Darkly, at the University Library. Another Bergman film I fell in love with instantly.
Through a Glass Darkly (NS)One of Bergman’s greatest works, Through a Glass Darkly, is an exploration of the psychological whirlpool into the world of schizophrenia. The film takes place within the span of 24 hours, in a remote island (filmed entirely in the island of Fårö, the largest island in Sweden). Karin (Harriet Andersson), has just been released from an asylum where she had been treated for schizophrenia. Karin’s family; which include her husband, Martin (Max von Sydow), her father, David (Gunnar Björnstrand), and her brother, Minus (Lars Passgård); take a vacation to this remote island. The film is a three-act ‘chamber film’, an allusion to both; the chamber plays of Swedish playwright/novelist/poet/essayist/painter, Johan August Strindberg; and to chamber music in general, in which four family members act as mirrors for each other. A chamber play, was a popular type of play, from the early 20th century, which consisted of three acts, performed with a small cast, with hardly any sets or costumes, in a small space. It was adapted to German cinema in the roaring 20’s, and later on by Ingmar Bergman to Swedish films.
Getting back to Through a Glass Darkly, it’s really interesting to see the close relationship shared by the two siblings (pictured above), in the beginning of the movie. In fact the whole movie is an excellent character study of all four family members.

Through a Glass Darkly won an Oscar for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’, and was nominated for ‘Best Original Screenplay’ at the 1962 Academy Awards Ceremony. It also won the Golden Globe Award for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’, and was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 12th Berlin International Film Festival. Famed American film critic, Roger Ebert, in 2008, added the film to his ‘Great Movies list’.

Later in 2003/2004, whilst residing in Oslo, I watched Den Goda Viljan (1992), a.k.a. The Best Intentions, an autobiographical film, about Ingmar Bergman’s parents, written by Ingmar Bergman, but not directed by him, instead directed by Danish film director Bille August. Another beautiful movie, this time, set in the early Edwardian era. The Best Intentions, won the ‘Palme d’Or’ at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, and it’s lead actress Pernilla August, who played Ingmar Bergman’s mother, won the award for ‘Best Actress’ at the same film festival. It’s a pity, besides having lived in Norway, I have only been to the Norway/Sweden border. I never really got to travel in Sweden, besides having travelled around Northern and Western Europe extensively.
SarabandIn 2007, while doing my MA in Painting (2006-2007), at the College of Fine Arts (COFA), University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, Australia, I got to watch Saraband (2003), when it was shown on a television channel down there. Saraband takes place about thirty years or so after the couple, played by Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann, divorce in Scenes from a Marriage (1973). This is an excellent sequel. It’s very rare that sequels are anywhere near as great as the first, but Bergman manages to be triumphant in bringing out a touching story, of the old couple’s latest meeting. Beautiful !!! what more can I say.

Despite being an avid film buff, it’s a pity I’ve only seen very few Bergman films till date. Only the ones I’ve spoken about. And I’ve only seen Scenes from a Marriage on the big screen, the rest, with exception of Saraband, were via video tapes. Thus, except for Scenes from a Marriage, everything else mentioned here were on the small screen. I’d love to watch Autumn Sonata (1978), on the big screen someday, if possible. Autumn Sonata was nominated for two awards at the Oscars, one for ‘Best Actress’ for Ingrid Bergman, and one for ’Best Original Screenplay’ for Ingmar Bergman.

Am really keen on watching some of his other great ventures as well, such as, his very first movie, Kris (1946) a.k.a. Crisis, A Ship Bound for India (1947), Sommarlek (1951), Sommaren med Monika (1953), Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), Det Sjunde Inseglet (1957) a.k.a. The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries (1957), Jungfrukällan (1960) a.k.a. The Virgin Spring, Persona (1966), Hour of the Wolf (1968), Cries & Whispers (1972), Face to Face (1976), Fanny och Alexander (1982) and many many more.

To one of greatest film directors ever, Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007). Ingmar Bergman died peacefully in his sleep, on July 30th, 2007. He was 89 years old. Yet he will live forever through his movies. Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957), was about cheating death, through a game of chess, with the personification of Death. In a way Bergman too has managed to cheat death by being remembered through his movies.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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