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Ernst Ingmar Bergman ( ; 14 July 1918 – 30 July 2007) was a Swedishmarker director, writer and producer for film, stage and television. His influential body of work often dealt with themes such as bleakness and despair, as well as comedy and hope, in his cinematic exploration of the human condition. Described by Woody Allen as "probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera", he is recognized as one of the most accomplished and influential film-makers of modern cinema.

He directed sixty-two films, most of which he also wrote, and directed over one hundred and seventy plays. Among his company of actors were Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson and Max von Sydow. Most of his films were set in the landscape of Sweden, his major themes being death, illness, betrayal and insanity.

Bergman was active for more than six decades, but his career was seriously threatened in 1976 when he suspended a number of pending productions, closed his studios, and went into self-imposed exile in Germany for eight years following a botched criminal investigation for alleged income tax evasion.

Early life

Ingmar Bergman was born in Uppsalamarker, Swedenmarker to Karin (maiden name Ă…kerblom) Bergman, a nurse, and Erik Bergman, a Lutheran minister and later chaplain to the King of Sweden. Ingmar grew up surrounded by religious imagery and discussion. His father was a conservative parish minister with certain extreme right political sympathy and strict parenting concepts. Ingmar was locked up in dark closets for "infractions" like wetting the bed. "While father preached away in the pulpit and the congregation prayed, sang, or listened," Ingmar wrote in his autobiography Laterna Magica,

"I devoted my interest to the church’s mysterious world of low arches, thick walls, the smell of eternity, the colored sunlight quivering above the strangest vegetation of medieval paintings and carved figures on ceilings and walls. There was everything that one’s imagination could desire — angels, saints, dragons, prophets, devils, humans."

Though he was raised in a devout Lutheran household, Bergman later stated that he lost his faith at age eight years, and only came to terms with this fact while making Winter Light.

Bergman's interest in theatre and film began early:

"At the age of 9, he traded a set of tin soldiers for a battered magic lantern, a possession that altered the course of his life. Within a year, he had created, by playing with this toy, a private world in which he felt completely at home, he recalled. He fashioned his own scenery, marionettes, and lighting effects and gave puppet productions of Strindberg plays in which he spoke all the parts."

In 1934, at the age of 16, Bergman was sent to spend the summer vacation with family friends in Germany. He attended a Nazi rally in Weimarmarker at which he saw Adolf Hitler. He later wrote in Laterna Magica (The Magic Lantern) about the visit to Germany, how the German family had put a portrait of Adolf Hitler on the wall by his bed, and that "for many years, I was on Hitler's side, delighted by his success and saddened by his defeats". Bergman did two five-month stretches of mandatory military service.

In 1937, he entered Stockholm University College (later renamed Stockholm Universitymarker), to study art and literature. He spent most of his time involved in student theatre and became a "genuine movie addict". At the same time, a romantic involvement led to a break with his father that lasted for years. Although he did not graduate, he wrote a number of plays, as well as an opera, and became an assistant director at a theater. In 1942, he was given the chance to direct one of his own scripts, Caspar's Death. The play was seen by members of Svensk Filmindustri who then offered Bergman position working on scripts. In 1943, he married Else Fisher.


Film work

Bergman's film career began in 1941 with his rewriting of scripts, but his first major accomplishment was in 1944 when he wrote the screenplay for Torment/Frenzy (Hets), a film directed by Alf Sjöberg. Along with writing the screenplay, he was also given position as assistant director to the film. In his second autobiographical work Images: My Life in Film, Bergman describes the filming of the exteriors as his actual film directorial debut. The international success of this film led to Bergman's first opportunity to direct a year later. During the next ten years, he wrote and directed more than a dozen films including The Devil's Wanton/Prison (Fängelse) in 1949 and The Naked Night/Sawdust and Tinsel (Gycklarnas afton) and Summer with Monika (Sommaren med Monika), both from 1953.

Bergman first achieved worldwide success with Smiles of a Summer Night (Sommarnattens leende) (1955), which won for "Best poetic humor" and was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes the following year. This was followed by The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet) and Wild Strawberries (Smultronstället), released in Sweden ten months apart in 1957. The Seventh Seal won a special jury prize and was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes and Wild Strawberries won numerous awards for Bergman and its star, Victor Sjöström.

Bergman continued to be productive for the next two decades. From the early 1960s, Bergman lived much of his life on the island of Fårömarker, Gotlandmarker, Sweden, where he made several of his films.

In the early 1960s he directed a trilogy that explored the theme of faith and doubt in God, Through a Glass Darkly (Såsom i en Spegel - 1961), Winter Light (Nattvardsgästerna - 1962), and The Silence (Tystnaden - 1963). In 1966, he directed Persona, a film that he himself considered one of his most important works. While the shockingly experimental film won few awards many consider it his masterpiece. Other notable films of the period include The Virgin Spring (Jungfrukällan - 1960), Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen - 1968), Shame (Skammen - 1968) and A Passion/The Passion of Anna (En Passion - 1969). Bergman also produced extensively for Swedish television at this time. Two works of note were Scenes from a Marriage (Scener ur ett äktenskap - 1973) and The Magic Flute (Trollflöjten - 1975).

After his arrest in 1976 for tax evasion, Bergman swore he would never again make films in Sweden. He shut his film studio on the island of Fårö down and went into exile. He briefly considered the possibility of working in America and his next film, The Serpent's Egg (1977) was a German-U.S. production and his second English-language film (the first being 1971's "The Touch"). This was followed a year later with a British-Norwegian coproduction of Autumn Sonata (Höstsonaten - 1978). The film starred Ingrid Bergman and was the one notable film of this period. The one other film he directed was From the Life of the Marionettes (Aus dem Leben der Marionetten - 1980) a British-German coproduction.

In 1982, he temporarily returned to his homeland to direct Fanny and Alexander (Fanny och Alexander), a film that, unlike his previous productions, was aimed at a broader audience, but was also criticized within the profession for being shallow and commercial. Bergman stated that the film would be his last, and that afterwards he would focus on directing theatre. Since then, he wrote several film scripts and directed a number of television specials. As with previous work for TV some of these productions were later released in theatres. The last such work was Saraband (2003), a sequel to Scenes from a Marriage and directed by Bergman when he was eighty-four years old.

Repertory company

Bergman developed a personal "repertory company" of Swedish actors whom he repeatedly cast in his films, including Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, Harriet Andersson, Erland Josephson, Ingrid Thulin, and Gunnar Björnstrand, each of whom appeared in at least five Bergman features. Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann, who appeared in nine of Bergman's films and one televisual movie (Saraband), was the last to join this group (in the 1966 film Persona), and ultimately became most closely associated with Bergman, both artistically and personally. They had a daughter together, Linn Ullmann (b. 1966).

Bergman began working with Sven Nykvist, his cinematographer, in 1953. The two of them developed and maintained a working relationship of sufficient rapport to allow Bergman not to worry about the composition of a shot until the day before it was filmed. On the morning of the shoot, he would briefly speak to Nykvist about the mood and composition he hoped for, and then leave Nykvist to work lacking interruption or comment until postproduction discussion of the next day's work.


By Bergman's own account, he never had a problem with funding. He cited two reasons for this: one, that he did not live in the United States, which he viewed as obsessed with box-office earnings; and two, that his films tended to be low-budget affairs. (Cries and Whispers, for instance, was finished for about $450,000, while Scenes from a Marriage — a six-episode television feature — cost only $200,000.)


Bergman usually wrote his own screenplays, thinking about them for months or years before starting the actual procession of writing, which he viewed as somewhat tedious. His earlier films are carefully constructed, and are either based on his plays or written in collaboration with other authors. Bergman stated that in his later works, when on occasion his actors would want to do things differently from his own intention, he would let them, noting that the results were often "disastrous" when he did not do so. As his career progressed, Bergman increasingly let his actors improvise their dialogue. In his latest films, he wrote just the ideas informing the scene and allowed his actors to determine the exact dialogue.

When viewing daily rushes, Bergman stressed the importance of being critical but unemotive, claiming that he asked himself not if the work is great or terrible, but if it is sufficient or if it needs to be reshot.


Bergman's films usually deal with existential question of mortality, loneliness, and religious faith.

While these themes could seem cerebral, sexual desire found its way to the foreground of most of his movies, whether the setting was a medieval plague (The Seventh Seal), upper-class familiar activity in early twentieth century Uppsala (Fanny and Alexander) or contemporary alienation (The Silence). His female characters are usually more in touch with their sexuality than the men, and unafraid to proclaim it, with the occasively breath-taking overtness (e.g., Cries and Whispers) that defined the work of "the conjurer," as Bergman called himself in a 1960 Time magazine cover story. In an interview with Playboy in 1964, he said: "...the manifestation of sex is very important, and particularly to me, for above all, I don't want to make merely intellectual films. I want audiences to feel, to sense my films. This to me is much more important than their understanding them." Film, Bergman said, was his demanding mistress. Some of his major actresses became his actual mistresses as his life overlapped with his movie-making.

Love — twisted, thwarted, unexpressed, repulsed — was the leitmotif of many of his movies, beginning perhaps with Winter Light, where the pastor's barren faith is contrasted with his former mistress's struggle, tinged with spite, to help him find spiritual justification through love.

Bergman's views on his career

When asked about his movies, Bergman said he held Winter Light, Persona, and Cries and Whispers in the highest regard, though in an interview in 2004, Bergman said that he was "depressed" by his own films and could not watch them anymore. In these films, he said, he managed to push the medium to its limit.

While he denounced the critical classification of three of his films (Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence) as a predetermined trilogy, saying he had no intention of connecting them and could not see any common motifs in them , this contradicts the introduction Bergman himself wrote in 1964 when he had the three scripts published in a single volume: "These three films deal with reduction. Through a Glass Darkly - conquered certainty. Winter Light - penetrated certainty. The Silence - God's silence - the negative imprint. Therefore, they constitute a trilogy". The Criterion Collection groups the films as a trilogy in a boxed set.

Bergman stated on numerous occasions (for example in the interview book Bergman on Bergman) that The Silence meant the end of the era in which religious questions were a major concern of his films.


Many film-makers have praised Bergman and cited his work as a major influence on their own:

Theatrical work

Although Bergman was universally famous for his contribution to cinema, he was also an active and productive stage director all his life. During his studies at Stockholm Universitymarker, he became active in its student theatre, where he made a name for himself early on. His first work after graduation was as a trainee-director at a Stockholm theatre. At twenty-six years, he became the youngest theatrical manager in Europe at the Helsingborg city theatre. He stayed at Helsingborg for three years and then became the director at Gothenburg city theatre from 1946 to 1949.

He became director of the Malmömarker city theatre in 1953 and remained for seven years. Many of his star actors were people with whom he began working on stage, and a number of people in the "Bergman troupe" of his 1960s films came from Malmömarker's city theatre (Max von Sydow, for example). He was the director of the Royal Dramatic Theatremarker in Stockholm from 1960 to 1966 and manager from 1963 to 1966.

After Bergman left Sweden because of the tax evasion incident, he became director of the Residenz Theatremarker of Munichmarker, Germanymarker (1977-84). He remained active in theatre throughout the 1990s and made his final production on stage with Ibsen's The Wild Duck at the Royal Dramatic Theatremarker in 2002.

A complete list of Bergman's work in theatre can be found under "Stage Productions and Radio Theatre Credits" in the Ingmar Bergman filmography article.

Tax evasion charges

1976 was one of the most traumatic years in the life of Ingmar Bergman. On 30 January 1976, while rehearsing August Strindberg's Dance of Death at the Royal Dramatic Theatremarker in Stockholm, he was arrested by two plainclothes police officers and charged with income-tax evasion. The impact of the event on Bergman was devastating. He suffered a nervous break-down as a result of the humiliation and was hospitalized in a state of deep depression.

The investigation was focused on an alleged 1970 transaction of 500,000 Swedish kronor (SEK) between Bergman's Swedish company Cinematograf and its Swissmarker subsidiary Persona, an entity that was mainly used for the paying of salaries to foreign actors. Bergman dissolved Persona in 1974 after having been notified by the Swedish Central Bank and subsequently reported the income. On 23 March 1976, the special prosecutor Anders Nordenadler dropped the charges against Bergman, saying that the alleged "crime" had no legal basis, comparing the case to the bringing of "charges against a person who is stealing his own car". Director General Gösta Ekman, chief of the Swedish Internal Revenue Service, defended the failed investigation, saying that the investigation was dealing with important legal material and that Bergman was treated just like any other suspect. He expressed regret that Bergman had left the country, hoping that Bergman was a "stronger" person now when the investigation had shown that he had not done any wrong.

Even though the charges were dropped, Bergman was for a while disconsolate, fearing he would never again return to directing. Despite pleas by the Swedish prime minister Olof Palme, high public figures, and leaders of the film industry, he vowed never to work again in Sweden. He closed down his studio on the barren Baltic island of Fårömarker, suspended two announced film projects, and went into self-imposed exile in Munichmarker, Germanymarker. Harry Schein, director of the Swedish Film Institute, estimated the immediate damage as ten million SEK (kronor) and hundreds of jobs lost.


Although he continued to operate from Munich, by mid-1978 Bergman seemed to have overcome some of his bitterness toward his motherland. In July of that year he was back in Sweden, celebrating his sixtieth birthday at Fårö, and partly resumed his work as a director at Royal Dramatic Theatre. To honor his return, the Swedish Film Institute launched a new Ingmar Bergman Prize to be awarded annually for excellence in film-making.

Still, he remained in Munich until 1984. In one of the last major interviews with Bergman, conducted in 2005 at Fårömarker Island, Bergman said that despite being active during the exile, he had effectively lost eight years of his professional life.

Bergman retired from film-making in December 2003. He had hip surgery in October 2006 and was making a difficult recovery. He died peacefully in his sleep, at his home on Fårö, on 30 July 2007, at the age of eighty-nine years, the same day that another renowned film director, Michelangelo Antonioni, also died. He was buried on the island on 18 August 2007 in a private ceremony. A place in the Fårö churchyard was prepared for him under heavy secrecy. Although he was buried on the island of Fårö, his name and date of birth were inscribed under his wife's name on a tomb at Roslagsbro churchyard, Norrtälje Municipalitymarker, several years before his death.


Bergman was married five times:

The first four marriages ended in divorce, while the last ended when his wife died of stomach cancer.

He was also the father of writer Linn Ullmann, with actress Liv Ullmann. In all, Bergman had nine children that he has acknowledged to be his own. He was married to all but one of the mothers of his children. His daughter with Ingrid von Rosen was born twelve years before their marriage.

In addition to his marriage, Bergman also had major relationships with Harriet Andersson (1952-55), Bibi Andersson (1955-59), and Liv Ullmann (1965-70). He was an agnostic



Academy Awards

In 1971, Bergman received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award at the Academy Awards ceremony. Three of his films have won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film:

BAFTA Awards

Berlin Film Festival

Cesar Awards

Cannes Film Festival

Golden Globe Awards

  • Won: Best Foreign Film Wild Strawberries (Smultronstället) (1960)
  • Nominated: Best Director, Fanny and Alexander (Fanny och Alexander) (1984)

See also


  1. The Films of Ingmar Bergman, by Jesse Kalin, 2003, p. 193
  2. "Ingmar Bergman, Master Filmmaker, Dies at 89" by Mervyn Rothstein, New York Times, 31 July 2007
  3. For an extended discussion of the profound influence that August Strindberg's work played in Bergman's life and career, see: Rolandsson, Ottiliana, Pure Artistry: Ingmar Bergman, the Face as Portal and the Performance of the Soul, PhD dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2009; see especially Chapter 2,“The Actor and the Sacred.”
  4. Ingmar Bergman: His Life and Films, by Jerry Vermilye, 2001, p. 6; see also his autobiography, Laterna Magica.
  5. Ingmar Bergman, The Magic Lantern (transl. from Swedish: Laterna Magica), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. ISBN 9780226043821
  6. Ingmar Bergman: His Life and Films, by Jerry Vermilye, 2001, p. 6
  7. Ingmar Bergman, Images : my life in film (translated from the Swedish by Marianne Ruuth), London: Bloomsbury, 1994. ISBN 0-7475-1670-7
  8. See e.g. "Filmkonstnären med stort F" Dagens Nyheter, 2 August 2007.
  9. stated in Marie Nyreröd's interview series (the first part named Bergman och filmen) aired on Sveriges Television Easter 2004.
  10. "
  11. Åtal mot Bergman läggs ned (video) Sveriges Television, Rapport, 23 March 1976.
  12. Generaldirektör om Bergmans flykt (video) Sveriges Television, Rapport, 22 April 1976.
  13. Harry Schein om Bergmans flyk (video) Sveriges Television, Rapport, 22 April 1976.
  14. Ephraim Katz, The Film Encyclopedia, New York: HarperCollins, 5th ed., 1998.
  15. Ingmar Bergman: Samtal på Fårö, Sveriges Radio, 28 March 2005


  • Bergman on Bergman: Interviews with Ingmar Bergman. By Stig Björkman, Torsten Manns, and Jonas Sima; Translated by Paul Britten Austin. Simon & Schuster, New York. Swedish edition copyright 1970; English translation 1973.
  • Filmmakers on filmmaking: the American Film Institute seminars on motion pictures and television (edited by Joseph McBride). Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1983.
  • Images: my life in film, Ingmar Bergman, Translated by Marianne Ruuth. New York, Arcade Pub., 1994, ISBN 1-55970-186-2
  • The Magic Lantern, Ingmar Bergman, Translated by Joan Tate New York, Viking Press, 1988, ISBN 0-670-81911-5

All of Bergman's original screen-plays for films directed by himself, from Through a Glass Darkly onwards — and the screen-plays he has penned since the 1980s for other directors — have been published in Swedish and most of them translated into English and other speeches. Some of his screen-plays have also come to use in stage theatre, often without the knowledge or license of the author (e.g. Scenes from a Marriage, Smiles of a Summer Night, After the Rehearsal).

In 1968, when the Swedish film magazine Chaplin published an "anti-Bergman issue" to clear the air from the slightly suffocating presence of the genius director, who was collecting Oscars and Palmes d'Or by the handful, Bergman secretly contributed one of the more acerbic pieces, signed by "the French film critic Ernest Riffe". The word soon began to spread that he was the author himself, and though he half-heartedly denied this, in Bergman on Bergman he admits to the truth of the allegation.

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