WHO is he?
Widely celebrated Swedish film and theatre director, scenarist and producer who made over 60 feature and television movies in a 60-year career spanning the 1940s and the 2000s. Three of his films — The Virgin Spring (1960), Through A Glass Darkly (1961) and Fanny and Alexander (1983) — won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film while Wild Strawberries (1957) took away the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival.
WHAT are his films about?
Bergman hailed from a conservative Protestant background and, consequently, religious Faith, Doubt and godlessness are key elements of his oeuvre. Protagonists of his films seek the solace of God’s presence, cope with His silence or downright see Him as a force of hatred. Despite this strong Christian influence, Bergman’s cinema remains deeply existential and probes the condition of man in a godless universe. They also deal with sexuality as a means of coping with life’s voids.
It would not be far from the truth to say that Bergman’s cinema is a cinema of human faces. Like Carl Dreyer or G. Aravindan, Bergman, along with master cinematographer Sven Nykvist, studied the texture of the human face, its contours, its geography and the play of light on it. Numerous extreme close-ups, a predominantly indoor setting, a small set of ace stock actors, lack of conventional musical soundtrack, a distinct lack of humour and a relentlessly bleak tone are some of the major characteristics of his films.
Why is he of interest?
Among the most revered and groundbreaking of film directors in the history of the medium, Bergman is cited to be a vital influence by a plethora of current-day filmmakers. His cinematic chamber dramas — stories that unfold within confined spaces with a handful of actors — can be seen as a direct inspiration for the Berlin School filmmakers. For better or worse, Bergman’s intense body of work has been endlessly cited, adapted, imitated and parodied the world over.
WHERE to discover him?
Despite not being among the canonical Bergman films, Winter Light (1963) is perhaps the director’s greatest achievement and the most coherent articulation of all his religious and existential preoccupations. Through the character of the doubtful priest Tomas (Gunnar Björnstrand), the film explores the impossibility and the necessity of Faith in an increasingly strange, hostile world.