There is ample use of still photography in Ingmar Bergman’s films, in which they serve many and varied functions. They have been shown to add historical and political context, as in Persona (1966), or have served, in Linda Rugg’s expression, as ‘portals into the past’. They have also been shown to be important components in Bergman’s autobiographical project in the latter part of his career, particularly in the novels based on his parents’ lives, Den goda viljan (1991)/Best Intentions (1993), Söndagsbarn (1993)/Sunday’s Children (1994), and Enskilda samtal/Private Confessions (1996). This chapter is concerned with the functions of photographs in Bergman’s writings, particularly with their linguistic description and extraordinary attention to detail, with the aim of showing how such ekphrases go well beyond their role in the stages of imaginative conception in general, or their organic and ‘realistic’ place in the fiction of the individual works. Rather, the aim here is to show to what extent such ekphrases serve as invitations to media experiences or media meditations in Bergman’s writings through a selection of ekphrastic descriptions of photographs, particularly in two of the novels mentioned above, Best Intentions and Sunday’s Children. The chapter presents some passages from previously unpublished diaries as well as earlier versions of the scripts, which were eventually edited from the published version.
This chapter is an attempt to outline some of the specific literary qualities of Ingmar Bergman’s screenplays. As the chapter demonstrates, Bergman’s writing is a great artistic achievement in its own right. As screenplays, Bergman’s scripts are rather idiosyncratic and variegated. Reading Bergman may sometimes be a similar experience to that of reading a traditional drama (Scenes from a Marriage, Autumn Sonata); a novel (parts of Fanny and Alexander, Sunday’s Children); or even poetry (Persona). At times, Bergman’s writings seem to defy not only their genre but their purpose. The script of the film Hour of the Wolf thus seems to resist adaptation for the screen. More of a closet drama, the work is first and foremost literature. Bergman’s use of the Swedish language is, as any speaker of Swedish would notice, rather peculiar. His written language is archaic, elevated, highly strung—in short: written rather than spoken. As such, the ceremonious language in which characters speak indicates how communication in Bergman is always conditioned by conventions, norms, and structures. Bergman is notoriously hard to translate. With its emphasis on prosodic rhythm, phonetics, and puns, his unique style is sometimes lost in translation. His use of punctuation marks is an example of how even the smallest parts of the (written) language, such as colons, exclamation marks, and question marks, were carefully selected by the author in order to make a point.
The notion and theoretical importance of ‘musical moments’ in film has recently attracted more and more attention; but this development has mostly been confined to musical numbers, usually song performances. In Bergman’s films, we quite often find scenes with musical numbers and musical numbers that constitute musical moments; in other words, the moments are of narrative importance. These kinds of musical moments are not in focus in this chapter, however. Instead, the searchlight is placed on scenes that use film music—that is, music which was originally composed for the films in question and is almost impossible to listen to as autonomous music. These film-musical moments in Bergman’s films deviate from the narrative and the aesthetics of the film and are distinctively transformative in that they constitute turning points. Hence, this chapter’s use of the concept ‘musical moment’ expands the notion from a musical number (in the form of a song) to the integrated use of film music in a transformative moment, but a moment where the music still ‘takes over’. Bergman’s transformative film-musical moments are rare; but when they do appear, they are striking and powerful. Examples occur in Sawdust and Tinsel (1953), Persona (1966), and Hour of the Wolf (1968). The transformation operates on two levels: the scenes are transformative for the lives of the characters in the film, as well as transformative for the narrative and the unfolding of the film. Besides, they offer a profound aesthetic experience even when they are not seen in their narrative context.
This chapter is a reading of Ingmar Bergman’s last film, Saraband, directed for Swedish public service television in 2003. The film, which is structured like a chamber play, offers a kind of summary of Bergman’s cinematic universe, with a number of intertextual connections to several of his most important works, including Wild Strawberries (1957), The Magician (1958), Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1972), and, especially, Scenes from a Marriage (1973); Saraband can actually be interpreted as the sequel to the latter. Saraband contains open and hidden allusions to theological questions that have been recurrent in Bergman’s work. The mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) and his interpretation of Heaven and Hell, and especially the world of spirits, is present in allusions and conversations, as well as the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) with his preludes to Existentialism. The reading of the film is guided by the concept of liminality. The characters are all in different stages of liminalities; and the borders between the living and the dead, as well as between one human soul and another, are constantly transcended or problematized. Bergman also returns to the kind of self-reflexive narration that he once introduced in Persona through the use of black-and-white film stills, and characters addressing the audience through the ‘fourth wall’. The film reflects upon itself as an artefact and as a work of fiction. This self-reflexivity, finally, is seen as the ‘ghost’, working in the machine of Bergman’s cinematic storytelling.
This chapter argues that we can compare key elements in the work of Ingmar Bergman with ideas in the Kleinian tradition of psychoanalytic theory, including specific concepts such as ‘the depressive position’ and the significance of ‘envy’. In particular, the chapter tracks the importance of narrative integration, a key concept from Kleinian aesthetics, in specific passages, paying attention to the details of film style. The chapter considers two films from the 1950s: Sawdust and Tinsel and Dreams, focusing on scenes and sequences where dialogue is absent or minimal. Ingmar Bergman’s continuing engagement with the aesthetics of silent cinema is explored with further reference to key films of that era, which he continued to be fascinated by. The chapter aims to show how an aesthetic influenced by silent cinema is integrated in key passages of the chosen films to explore psychological conflict and reparation. Patterns representing the characters’ inner struggles, in both works, are seen to diverge to an extent from the unresolved conflicts in the influential silent classics that continued to inspire Bergman’s creative methods. The analysis attends to the way both works represent a balance between the inner world of the leading characters and a vivid representation of the social world. Building on established critical writing about these films, the author aims to show that this psychologically intense filmmaking is simultaneously engaged with social conflicts, a balance that accords with work that has sought to reveal the social and political dimensions of Kleinian theory.
This book on Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman contains eighteen new scholarly chapters on the director’s work, mainly in the cinema. Most of the contributors—some Swedish, others American or British—have written extensively on Bergman before, some for decades. Bergman is one of the most written-about artists in film history and his fame still lingers all over the world, as was seen in the celebrations of his centenary in 2018. The book was specifically conceived at that time with the aim of presenting fresh angles on his work, although several chapters also focus on traditional aspects of Bergman’s art, such as philosophy and psychology. Ingmar Bergman: An Enduring Legacy thus addresses a number of essential topics which have not featured in Bergman studies before, such as the director’s relations with Hollywood and transnational film production. It also deals at length with Bergman’s highly sophisticated use of film music and with his prominence as a writer of autobiographical literature, as well as with the intermedial relations to his films that this perspective inevitably entails. Finally, the book addresses Bergman’s complex relations to Swedish politics. Many different approaches and methods are employed in the book in order to show that Bergman remains a relevant and important artist. The analyses generally focus on some of his most memorable films, like Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona, and Fanny and Alexander; but some rarer material, including Hour of the Wolf, The Lie, and Autumn Sonata, is discussed as well.
This book on Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman contains eighteen new scholarly chapters on the director’s work, mainly in the cinema. Most of the contributors—some Swedish, others American or British—have written extensively on Bergman before, some for decades. Bergman is one of the most written-about artists in film history and his fame still lingers all over the world, as was seen in the celebrations of his centenary in 2018. The book was specifically conceived at that time with the aim of presenting fresh angles on his work, although several chapters also focus on traditional aspects of Bergman’s art, such as philosophy and psychology. Ingmar Bergman: An Enduring Legacy thus addresses a number of essential topics which have not featured in Bergman studies before, such as the director’s relations with Hollywood and transnational film production. It also deals at length with Bergman’s highly sophisticated use of film music and with his prominence as a writer of autobiographical literature, as well as with the intermedial relations to his films that this perspective inevitably entails. Finally, the book addresses Bergman’s complex relations to Swedish politics. Many different approaches and methods are employed in the book in order to show that Bergman remains a relevant and important artist. The analyses generally focus on some of his most memorable films, like Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona and Fanny and Alexander; but some rarer material, including Hour of the Wolf, The Lie, and Autumn Sonata, is discussed as well.
This chapter begins by setting Bergman in his Nordic context and looking at the advantages and disadvantages that this context implied. It then describes his early career and the crucial moment in the mid-1950s when he won a major prize in Cannes and his films were bought for US distribution. His two successive Academy Awards for Best Foreign-Language Picture were followed by more severe, experimental works such as The Silence and Persona. In 1973 Bergman made the TV series Scenes from a Marriage, which proved a massive success with the public at home and abroad. Three years later, he went into self-imposed exile in Germany while being investigated for tax fraud—a charge of which he was exonerated. In 1982 he returned to Sweden to make the most celebrated and best-loved film of his career, Fanny and Alexander. He then retired from the cinema, concentrating on producing works for television and the stage in the next two decades. His memoirs appeared in 1987. The chapter concludes by analysing the reasons for his abiding reputation as a major auteur, citing the opinions of numerous peers and contemporaries. His influence on other filmmakers is noted. So is the continuing popularity of his films on DVD and other platforms, as well as the staging as plays of some of his films all around the world.
The soundscape of Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night
Comedy is not the first thing that comes to mind when contemplating the films of Ingmar Bergman, who is primarily known for brooding atmospheres, psychological tension, and heavy themes of love, faith, and infidelity. Similar themes are encountered in his comedic films, where he uses the soundtrack to trigger laughs and drive tragicomic tensions. This chapter examines how tragedy and comedy are expressed in the sonic world of Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night (1955). Music in the film—comprised of selections from the classical music canon, sacred music, and music by Erik Nordgren—is better understood through the comedic theories of Henri Bergson, who writes about how laughter arises ‘in response to the mechanical encrusted on the living’. The mechanical is elucidated through Nordgren’s musical cues and is even associated with sound effects and vocalizations. Bergman’s soundtrack challenges the generic boundaries of comedy, highlighting the tragicomic aspects of protagonists and plot. An analysis of the sonic events leading to the film’s climax reveals how music plays a powerful role as a prime cinematic force underlying thematic tensions—regarding religion, and faith and doubt in love—eventually helping move the narrative through tears towards laughter. When Bergman offers a comic moment, it is fleeting, as the tragic is never far behind. Entwined in the tragic and comic, acting as a driving force, is Bergman’s soundtrack.
Using Lacanian psychoanalysis, Derridean deconstruction, and queer theory, this chapter explores the thematic ramifications of the three-frame shot of an erect penis in first few seconds of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona. Ultimately arguing that the character of Elisabet, who rejects the false sincerity of speech for the productively duplicitous practice of writing, represents radical queer negativity, this study presents a new reading of Persona that celebrates its subversive power.