Every year, we see new cinematic proposals that evolve with the new technologies and forms of storytelling on screen. However, there’s no doubt that, taking out some exceptions, the idea of auteur cinema isn’t something of today’s era in film history. In other words, we no longer have that idea of solid filmmakers with a particular perspective around. This naturally makes us always look into the past to watch the works of consolidated creators who invented a very unique style that not only brought something new to the table, but inspired generations to come of filmmakers. One of them, an honorary member in the history of filmmaking, is the great Ingmar Bergman.
Bergman is definitely an obliged filmmaker for anyone aspiring to become a film buff. He gave to the spectator deep stories that focused on the psyche of his characters. Yes, he’s not the simplest storyteller out there, but unlike what many would think of his work being the cliché of black and white boring European cinema, his films are quite enjoyable, entertaining, and with a great meaning and artistry. So, if you’re looking to get acquainted with the work of the iconic Swedish filmmaker, here are three of his most important films.
Wild Strawberries (1957)
One of the things that made Bergman’s films so innovative is that he deliberately wanted to create something different to what was being done in Hollywood. He believed characters in the American industry were extremely unidirectional, with no depth. In contrast, his characters offer such complexity that can be seen through many levels; from their psychological traits to their very deep fears and concerns.
Wild Strawberries tells us the story of an old academic who has to travel to get a Doctor Jubilaris. However, the movie isn’t only about the literal journey he’s about to embark but one through his very own soul and thoughts. As in many of Bergman’s movies, there are clear associations between universal themes and in this case, he deals with death, loneliness, isolation, and the accepting of his inevitable end. This is both shown through the nightmares and dreams the character has, but also through the different hitchhikers that remind him of his life.
The Seventh Seal (1957)
This is probably his most famous film and one that has all that the Bergman signature holds. Set in the Middle Ages, the movie tells the story of a knight and his squire who have just returned home in Denmark after fighting in the Crusades only to find that the country has been ravaged by the terrible plague. As you can guess, the film is a full analysis of death and our purposes in life. The interesting thing about the film is the personification of Death and its relationship with the knight who’s attempting to do one last meaningful deed before dying, but at the same time while questioning what has he done with his life.
The movie ends up being a theological dissertation between faith and reason, good and evil, God and Satan, life and death. The movie’s title even comes from one passage from the Book of Revelations, “and when the Lamb had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” That’s one of the main lines of the film, the silence of God in relation to the many calamities that happen in the world. All these told through Bergman’s classic style and depth that will make its viewers question, like the knight, when will our time come and if, after all, our lives would’ve been what we consider worthy.
If you’re really looking for a complex film to understand Bergman, Persona will be the movie to watch. Extremely experimental, the film opens with a series of images that at first don’t seem to have any connexion between one and the other, but highly rich in content for its analysis. Soon, we see a boy in what appears to be a hospital watching these images; one is of two women and so our story begins. Alma is a nurse who has been assigned to take care of a famous actress who has stopped talking and moving much. Under the recommendation of the doctors, Alma is instructed to take Elisabet to a cottage by the sea expecting it to be a more favorable place for her to recover.
Throughout the film, Alma tells Elisabet her life story, but as time passes the lines that distinguish both women start to blend in Alma’s mind making it hard for her to discern between her identity and her patients. The film centers on the themes of duality and identity, making it a really interesting piece of a psychological dissertation. This film is so open to different interpretations that it becomes a real challenge for those wanting to take an aim at what Bergman really wanted to portray. Still, for that same reason, it’s still considered to be a huge masterpiece in the history of cinema and essential for those who want to delve into the work of the filmmaker
It’s said that Bergman’s films are his own attempt to explore his own personal struggles and concerns. All his movies can be related to his own life and experiences. For that reason, they become really deep and honest approximations to what human nature is. As you might have noticed, they all deal with universal but dark themes we all face and endure at some point in our lives. From isolation, death, religion, aging, and identity, they become very relatable films that will make us question our own paths and perspectives in life.
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