This month, a major season of the films and television works of Ingmar Bergman begins at the BFI Southbank in London. While the Swedish auteur directed over 60 films and documentaries, not to mention over 170 plays in the theatre, this selection of key works is an ideal way into his themes – which turn a spotlight on some of life’s great questions, exploring human psychology in a chaotic and often cruel universe.
With such a comprehensive body of work, the season has been divided into several strands. ‘Ingmar Bergman In Close Up’ may be a good place to start, with a trio of films – Through The Glass Darkly (1961), Winter Light (1963) and The Silence (1963) – that touched on concerns that would come to dominate his career. Hugely influential, not least on Paul Schrader, whose forthcoming priest-seeking-redemption tale, First Reformed, borrows heavily from Winter Light.
Other strands include All in the Family, examining turmoil in domestic settings, which includes a chance to see the uncut TV version of Bergman’s Oscar-nominated portrait of a Swedish family, Fanny and Alexander (1982). At 311 minutes, it’s an epic experience, although fans can also enjoy (for free) a special exhibition that runs in the atrium featuring clips, research material and sketches that all fed into the making of the film.
Meanwhile, Women in Love studies the female experience, and Love, Pain and the Whole Damn Thing explores romance and sex according to Bergman. Then there’s The Human Condition, which looks our place in the universe. It features a chance to catch what is arguably Bergman’s most famous film The Seventh Seal (1957), a medieval saga in which a knight back from the Crusades challenges the figure of Death in a game of chess.
The season also includes a chance to see Liv Ullmann in conversation. One of Bergman’s regular troupe of collaborators, she features in some of his most celebrated works including The Passion of Anna (1969) and Cries and Whispers (1972) and Scenes from a Marriage (1973). Also intriguing will be comedian and writer-director Richard Ayoade introducing Persona (1966), one of two films – alongside The Touch – given extended runs.
The Ingmar Bergman Season runs at the BFI Southbank until 31 March. For more details, visit: www.whatson.bfi.org.uk.
1. Jan Malmsjö and Ewa Fröling in Fanny and Alexander directed by Ingmar Bergman, 1982.