TIFF Cinematheque Present - The films of INGMAR BERGMAN

 

A must for all those serious about cinema, Ingmar Bergman films demonstrate the art of cinema and the influence of a director’s life and religion on his craft.

Bergman has also been an influence on many a filmmaker, most notably Woody Allen, Margarethe von Trotta, Olivier Assayas, Mia Hansen-Love, Ruben Ostlund among others.  Allen has made films like STARDUST MEMORIES which is definitely Bergman in tone while von Trotta has made SEARCHING FOR INGMAR BERGMAN, a documentary on the Master’s work.    It is a pity the doc is not screened as part of this retrospective as it would serve as the perfect companionship.  The doc was screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and hopefully will get a theatrical run soon.

This exhaustive series screens almost every Bergman film, which needless to say should be seen on the big screen.  The cinematography by Sven Nyquist,who has worked on most of the Bergman’s films is nothing short of astonishing.

Bergman’s films range from the playful like the most entertaining FANNY AND ALEXANDER to his most serious (about death WILD STRAWBERRIES, CRIES AND WHISPERS and of course, THE SEVENTH SEAL with the grim reaper or relationships PERSONA) to his kind of action/revenge flick, the excellent THE VIRGIN SPRING).  A warning is that the films are not an easy watch - many are ultra-grim, except maybe for FANNY AND ALEXANDER which runs more than 3 hours in length.

Religion plays part in Bergman’s films.  His childhood is best exemplified in FANNY AND ALEXANDER. 

For the complete program schedule, ticket pricing, venue and showtimes, please check th Cinematheque website at:

tiff.net

Capsule Review of Selected Films:

 

CRIES AND WHISPERS (Sweden 1972) ***

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

 

Though the only foreign film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, CRIES AND WHISPERS is one of my least favourite Bergman films.  Though the cinematography here by Bergman regular Sven Nykvist is one of his best works, the film is too artsy for my taste.  The story follows  three sisters, played excellently by Liv Ullmann, Ingrid Thulin and Harriet Anderson, one of which is dying from an unnamed ailment.  She is closer to her maid that the oner two sisters though she (Agnes) tries to reconcile the problem after her death.  There are lots of heavy breathing, moaning and groaning and of course, crying and whispering, which I think could be quite laughable at times.  Religion is always at the forefront again.  There are hints of lesbian love and incest though thankfully Bergman spares the audience any sex scenes.  All a very sordid and gloomy affair.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Pw7FYex5pQ

 

 

FANNY AND ALEXANDER (Sweden 1982) *****Top 10

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

 

FANNY AND ALEXANDER is the film that has been on many a critics Best Film list.  Personally, its stands as my best Bergman film, even to say that it is one of my 10 best films of ALL TIME.  The film is pure delight from start to finish despite its over 3 hour running time (The film was originally made for television).  The first hour is light and cheerful (rare in a Bergman movie) as the wealthy Swede family celebrate Christmas among the family and servants.  This is Christmas in Sweden with all the food, decorations, dancing and celebration.  At the hour mark, the father, Oscar dies and the mother marries a wicked over-religious bishop who moves the mother and children into his own house, demanding that every personal possession be left behind.  “I worry for the children’” says the grandmother, prompting the worse to come.  Alexander, particularly suffers the wrath of the bishop.  The bishop’s household is also the epitome of evil.  I have seen this 3-hour film three times, and it is pure ecstasy each viewing.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkszXVEUHco

 

HOUR OF THE WOLF (Sweden 1968) ****

Directed by Imgmar Bergman

The HOUR OF THE WOLF is a bewitching hour.  As described by the Master, Bergman himself: "The hour of the wolf is the time between night and dawn.  It is the hour when most people die, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are most palpable.  It is the hour when the sleepless are pursued by their sharpest anxieties, when ghosts and demons hold sway. It is also the hour when most children are born."  His film captures this hour vividly through the life of painter on the verge of madness played by Max von Sydow.  It all happens when the painter mysteriously disappears and his pregnant wife (Liv Ulmann) discovers his diary and hence his thoughts of his affair with another woman.  HOUR OF THW WOLF traces the painter’s decent into madness (one of the film’s best segments involve him and his wife attending a dinner party where everything drives him crazy).  Bergman does what he does best here - shows the demons in an individual.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6aNUjm7Y2I

 

PERSONA (Sweden 1966) **

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

 

PERSONA, quite similar in tone to CRIES AND WHISPERS is again, one of the least favourite of my Bergman films.  The film follows an actress played by Liv Ullmann who is recovering in a hospital before being cared fro by a single nurse, played by Bibi Anderson.  The two move into the doctor's beach house where the two continue the actress’s convalescence.  The actress initially never talks but slowly opens up, which gives the chance for the nurse to go on and on about her youth and adventures including an abortion and a sexual fling with a young stranger that gave her the best sex in her life.  Needless to say, the two torture each other.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rtSjV_gFkw

 

SUMMER WITH MONIKA (Sweden 1953) ***1/2

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

 

The lesser known work, SUMMER WITH MONIKA is Bergman’s teenage romance.  The film begins with flirty Monika (Harriet Anderson) asking for a match from Harry (Lars Ekborg) in a coffee shop.  This leads to an evening at the movies and love that soon blossoms.  In the coffee shop, an elderly mane warns of the turmoil of spring just as the teens laugh and prepare for good times.  The contrast of life’s outlook is so different from the old and the young.  But the you g eventually grow older and Bergman sows that misery is part of life, as Harry’s anther blurts out int one scene; “Suffering is part of life”.  The two lovers eventually escape on a stolen boat to spend a summer idyll in the archipelago.  Then life takes a turn as Monika finds herself pregnant.  The two marry, and matrimony rears its ugly head.  Bergman over emphasizes the emotions of his teen characters - Monika not only sobs during the teary moments in the movie but uses a hanky to wipe away tears followed by her blowing her nose.  Harry’s yawns by contrast are big ones.  Despite the lack of nudity, Bergman’s film is very sex and erotic.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S00-c-Rd-K4

THE VIRGIN SPRING (Jungfrukällan) (Sweden 1960) Top 10 *****

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

THE VIRGIN SPRING in retrospect plays like a classic art-house version of TAKEN where the father goes on an all-out revenge against the perpetuators of the crime committed on his daughter.  Bergman knows how to draw his audience into his story and by the time the father lifts up his weapon (a butcher knife) against the villains, the audience is right on the point of cheering him on and violently.  THE VIRGIN SPRING is the harshly beautiful rendering of a 14th-century legend.  While taking candles to her church, the virginal young Karin (Birgitta Pettersson) is brutally raped and murdered by three goatherds.  The assailants later unknowingly take shelter at the farm of her father (Max von Sydow), who realizes their identity when they try to sell his daughter’s clothes.   Bergman’s attention to detail is another reason this film is so perfect - from the eating utensils to the furniture of the 14th Century farmhouse.   The film won both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and is Bergman’s most commercially accessible film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ea

WILD STRAWBERRIES (Smultronstället)(Sweden1957) *****Top 10

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

Arguably Bergman’s best film, WILD STRAWBERRIES opens with Professor Borg’s voiceover describing his life, he a 79-year old widowed doctor with a son with no children.  He is looked after by a good housekeeper of 40 years service.  Bergman demonstrates his prowess at drawing the audience into his characters.  When the film begins, Borg has a nightmare - one that is classic Bergman.  Borg is walking down an empty street of deserted building when he looks up at a click with no hands.  He looks at his pocket watch, which turns out has no hands either.  A horse bearing  coffin comes around the corner with the coffin falling off right i front of Borg.  A hand reaches out from the coffin t grab his hand.  Borg opens the coffin to see the face of the corpse as his own.  This opening sequence is nothing short of genius.  The film then follows  Borg en route to receiving his honours in Lund as he is accompanied by his pregnant daughter-in-law Marianne who does not much like him and is planning to separate from her husband, Evald, his only son, who does not want her to have the baby, their first.  One of the best films eve made about old people facing death.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs_j7y_QyM8

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