Ernst Ingmar Bergman (14 July 1918 – 30 July 2007) was a Swedish director, regarded as one of the true greats in the history of film. Between writing, directing, and producing, he was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, winning for Best Foreign Film three times: The Virgin Spring (1960, the inspiration for the American The Last House on the Left), Through a Glass Darkly (1961), and Fanny and Alexander (1983). Another of his famous films is The Seventh Seal, a Trope Codifier for Chess with Death.
His films have a reputation for being gloomy and surrealistic. Although he generally tells identifiable "stories," straightforward plot descriptions will rarely give any real indication of what his movies are "about"; even criticism of his works tends to sound like psychobabble. Bergman himself even stated that he didn't so much care if the audience understood what he was going for as long as they felt something. Despite being (rather unjustly) a poster child for True Art Is Incomprehensible, the list of filmmakers who regard him as being among the best directors ever is long, including Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee and Francis Ford Coppola. There's a reason forty of his filmsnote have been released in America by The Criterion Collection.
However, it should be noted that in his lifetime, Bergman was pretty much a household name in The '60s and The '70s across the world. His films were generally box-office successes, not only in Sweden and Europe, but also in America. His film Scenes from a Marriage was the most popular TV show of its age, and according to legend was a cause for a spike in divorce rates after the film's release. Cries and Whispers was likewise released in America by none other than Roger Corman, who managed to distribute it so well that it became a box-office success there.
Not to be confused with, nor has any relation to, another Swedish famous film persona, Ingrid Bergman (though he once directed her, in Autumn Sonata; people on set got them confused).
Works by Ingmar Bergman with their own trope pages include:
- Torment (1944) (screenplay)
- Summer with Monika (1953)
- Sawdust and Tinsel (1953)
- Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)
- The Seventh Seal (1957)
- Wild Strawberries (1957)
- Brink of Life (1958)
- The Virgin Spring (1960)
- Through a Glass Darkly (1961)
- Winter Light (1963)
- Tystnaden (The Silence) (1963)
- Persona (1966)
- Hour of the Wolf (1968)
- Skammen (The Shame) (1968)
- En Passion (The Passion of Anna) (1969)
- The Touch (1971)
- Cries and Whispers (1972)
- Scenes from a Marriage (1973)
- The Magic Flute (1975)
- Face to Face (1976)
- Autumn Sonata (1978)
- From the Life of the Marionettes (1981)
- Fanny and Alexander (1982)
- The Best Intentions (1992) (screenplay)
- Abortion Fallout Drama: In his early film Port of Call (1948), the young working-class heroine picks up a friend from a Back-Alley Doctor abortionist. Something goes very wrong, the friend dies, and when the cops demand that she name the abortionist, she refuses, arguing that someone has to look out for the people society leaves to fend for themselves.
- Anti-Hero: In almost all of his films, the heroes possess glaring personal flaws, either having to do with the way they treat others, the way they look at the world or their inability to see the ramifications of their actions.
- Cerebus Syndrome:
- In a lot of his film things start relatively optimistically but always shift for the worse. And worse. And even worse. Hour of the Wolf, Skammen, En Passion, Cries and Whispers, Face to Face, Autumn Sonata, Fanny and Alexander are all examples. In the beginning of each of the films listed the situation appears somewhat regular. But it rapidly deteriorates.
- Applies to his career as well. He started out specializing in comedies, but after The Seventh Seal he took a Darker and Edgier turn.
- Crapsack World: Bergman's work is associated with drama about life and death. Skammen was especially notable for being set in an unnamed war torn nation showing what war does to people and human relations.
- Crisis of Faith: He made an entire trilogy about "the Silence of God" and it crops up in a lot of his movies. He was raised in a family of Lutheran priests and had a difficult relationship with his father. He eventually did become an agnostic and in his view the movie The Silence was the point where he stopped asking everyone Have You Seen My God? and religion, while still a part in his films, stopped being as prominent in his later films.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Black-and-white is used to great effect in his work. He came to colour film later than other European film-makers and only used it sporadically, making exclusively colour films only in The '70s and The '80s.
- Devil in Disguise: In Fanny and Alexander and The Devils Eye, a rigid religious morality and those people who embody it are shown to destroy a true impulse for goodness in people.
- Dramedy: Although he is best known for his existential dramas, Bergman is surprisingly good at getting laughs, even making some outright comedies. Even his most dour pictures, like The Seventh Seal have some laugh-out-loud moments.
- The Grim Reaper: Death is prominent subject in his work. To the point that the Grim Reaper is actually a character in The Seventh Seal.
- Le Film Artistique: His pop culture reputation is as the ultimate example of this trope. People are often surprised to find that his films, while dealing with weighty themes, can actually be quite accessible, since he usually wrapped them around easily-understandable premises and plots, and included some humor as well.
- Magic Realism: Many of his films contain supernatural elements to varying degrees.
- Money, Dear Boy: Money is why he did nine commercials for the soap brand Bris in 1951 (he still cared enough that they came out rather artsy). It was necessary because the Swedish film industry was on strike at the time to protest the high taxes applied to it. One was also his first work with Bibi Andersson."The primary reason I wanted to make the commercials was that I was given free rein with money and I could do exactly what I wanted with the product's message. Anyhow, I have always found it difficult to feel resentment when industry comes rushing toward culture, check in hand."
- Not So Stoic: Almost every film features a very stoic person breaks down in every possible way – existentially, mentally, physically, sexually.
- Old Shame: He really disliked most of the films he made at the start of his career, but considered his absolute nadir to be This Can't Happen Here, an Anvilicious spy thriller that he made on demand. It's never seen a home video release and is very rarely shown at film festivals.
- Production Posse:
- One of his usual collaborators was cinematographer Sven Nykvist. Before him there was the less-known Gunnar Fischer, who worked with Bergman up until 1960's The Devil's Eye; others included The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries and The Magician.
- Also quite a few actors, among them Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson, Harriet Andersson, Bibi Andersson, Max von Sydow, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand and Gunnel Lindblom.
- Sequel Gap: A whole thirty years between Scenes From a Marriage (1973) and Saraband (2003). The gap is a major Plot Point in Saraband.
- Show Within a Show: Quite a few of his movies feature in-story films or plays, often with generous helpings of Stylistic Suck.
- Theme Naming: Bergman often used the same names for characters with particular traits, almost to the point of Hogwarts houses. For instance, artists with connection to great truths tend to be named Vogler (The Magician, Hour of the Wolf, Persona (1966)), authoritarians and villains Vergerus (The Magician, The Serpent's Egg, Fanny and Alexander), Rosenbergs are tormented failures (Skammen, The Serpent's Egg), Jacobis practical and secretive (Face to Face, Fanny and Alexander) and Egermans are unhappily married (Smiles of a Summer Night, The Magician, Scenes from a Marriage).