Movie Article

Bergman Essentials

Head home Swede home with DVDs of these seven classic films

Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)
Bergman became an international name with this comedy of romantic manners, intertwining multiple love triangles on a sprawling 19th-century estate. It inspired Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, among countless others.

The Seventh Seal (1957)
In this darkly metaphysical and oft-imitated tale set in an age of witch burnings and plague, a knight (Max von Sydow) plays chess for his soul with a black-shrouded Death.

Wild Strawberries (1957)
This contemplative road movie follows an aging prof (Victor Sjöström) on a journey of self-discovery. Flashbacks and haunting dreams alternate with autumnal epiphanies, as at least one Bergman hero achieves a final inner peace.

Persona (1966)
Bergman blurs the line between dream and reality in this visual tour de force about a catatonic actress (Liv Ullmann) and her doting nurse (Bibi Andersson) whose identities seem to merge while they share a cottage on a remote, barren island.

Cries and Whispers (1973)
Bergman's most devastating contemplation of human mortality became only the fourth foreign-language film to earn an Oscar nod for Best Picture (cinematographer Sven Nykvist won a statuette). As a young woman (Harriet Andersson) lies screaming in her bed, her impending death lays bare the crippled souls of her two sisters (played by Ullmann and Ingrid Thulin).

Scenes From Marriage (1974)
Bergman's probing portrait of one couple's wrenching separation. As Ullmann (again!) and Erland Josephson take turns venting in various claustrophobic rooms, their psychological nakedness is almost too painful to watch.

Fanny and Alexander (1983)
Beginning and ending with joyous holiday gatherings, this family epic, seen through the eyes of children, recaps all the big Bergman themes — concluding that life is worth the struggle. Not his final film, but a grand finale nonetheless, which earned four Oscars, including Best Foreign Language Film, from six nominations.

Originally posted Aug 03, 2007 Published in issue #947 Aug 10, 2007 Order article reprints
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