You no doubt have a filmmaker you’ve always
Well, you. You have time. We all do. We’re social distancing; you can’t go places. So why not watch a bunch of movies designed for introspection and seclusion? Like many a Nordic drama of today, Bergman’s cinema depicts people living in remote locations. Often they live in fear of the world around them. Perfect for these angsty COVID-19 days. After actor Max Von Sydow’s sad passing, people are looking to celebrate his career. Guess what; Von Sydow and Bergman made 11 feature films together!
And because we know you’re at home, looking for things to watch, we want to let you know of all the great Bergman movies you can watch on either the Criterion Channel (via subscription) or Kanopy (through your local library, where available). It won’t be every single movie. For those of you looking for a primer, here are the Essential Ingmar Bergman Movies, Streaming Now.
Note: It’s of course wholly subjective what one considers an “essential” film, so I’m basing these on how much they’re usually talked about in Bergman’s overall filmography. And we’ll talk about them chronologically from release date.
The Seventh Seal (1957)
We’re going to start with arguably Bergman’s most famous film. It stars Von Sydow as a medieval knight who returns to Sweden from the Crusades with his squire to find Denmark ravaged by the Black Plague. On his way home, the knight encounters the personification of Death (Bengt Ekerot), there to collect his life. The knight challenges Death to a chess match, believing he can stave off his own mortality if he keeps the game going. As the knight and Death play their movie-long game, we see him search for religious meaning in a world seemingly devoid of divine interference.
This is indeed one of Bergman’s great works, and it’s a testament to his ability to weave fantasy and reality that it’s at once a deep search for meaning and a fanciful history of a bygone age.
Wild Strawberries (1957)
What a year Bergman had in ’57! Just 10 months after the release of
A gorgeous film about reflecting on your life’s biggest moments and perhaps not in the best of light. It perfectly encapsulates Bergman’s filmic ethos.
The Virgin Spring (1960)
One of the most harrowing movies Bergman ever made. Or anyone, really. We’re back in medieval Sweden; Von Sydow plays a a devout man who sends his young daughter Karin and her pregnant servant to town to deliver flowers to a church. Karin meets three herdsmen and asks them to join her for lunch. After eating, the two older men brutalize and murder her.
Unknowingly, the herdsman later seek shelter at Karin’s parents’ house, attempting to sell the girl’s clothes to her mother. After discovering the truth, the parents decide to take bloody revenge on the men. If it sounds familiar, it’s because this is the movie which Wes Craven effectively remade for his own debut,
The Faith Trilogy (1961-1963)
Bergman made so many films in such great succession that his filmography reflects certain periods, like a painter. In the early ’60s, following the fantastical films that gave him international acclaim, he made a trio of thematically connected movies that are not fun to watch, but are absolutely masterpieces. They deal with modern day people losing their faith. 1961’s
The second film,
All three of the films are small yet grandiose in their own ways and feature some truly outstanding lead performances.
This period is where Bergman started to get real David Lynchian. Or, more appropriately, these are the movies where David Lynch probably got his style and tone. Many of his films have elements of horror, but
Hour of the Wolf (1968)
Another downright chilling psychological horror movie, this one stars Von Sydow as a painter who lives in the country with his wife (Ullmann). He’s plagued with insomnia and frightening visions, all centering on the titular hour in the night, when folklore says blurs the line between life and death. Von Sydow eventually goes to a neighboring manor house where he encounters seemingly supernatural, possibly vampiric aristocrats.
If you like
Cries and Whispers (1972)
If you’re one who longs for sumptuous costume drama and rich, saturated colors, then this is the movie for you. While all the previous Bergman films on the list are in black and white, perfect for the frigid themes at play, this one is in full color, particularly utilizing the color red. It follows three sisters (Harriet Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, and Liv Ullmann) and their young servant (Kari Sylwan) as they deal with the terminal cancer of the eldest and their emotional distance and closeness throughout their lives.
Scenes from a Marriage (1973)
Think of this as a precursor to
Obviously there are many,