• Sweden edition
 
SPONSORED ARTICLE
How Bergman blazed a trail for Swedish film
Photo: Jan Videren

How Bergman blazed a trail for Swedish film

Published: 23 May 2012 14:35 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 May 2012 14:35 GMT+02:00

For a country with a relatively small population, Sweden regularly manages to punch above its weight in the world of culture. There is perhaps no better example of this than the film industry, and for that the Swedes have one person to thank more than most - Ingmar Bergman.

Bergman was described by Woody Allen as "the greatest film artist since the invention of the motion picture camera," and it is impossible to speak of film in Scandinavia without mentioning his name. Yet he is far from the only name in Swedish film - in fact, perhaps his greatest legacy is the throng of internationally acclaimed Swedish film directors active today.

A string of filmmaking success stories over the past couple of decades – including Thomas Alfredson, Lukas Moodysson, Josef Fares and Roy Andersson – all owe a lot to a man who has done as much to brand Sweden as Volvo, Abba and the Nobel Prize and whose name continues to inspire a thriving and diverse industry.

Bergman started making films in his childhood, and began working as a theatre director before moving onto film, first as a writer, with Frenzy in 1944. It would take him 11 years however, to receive his first international recognition for Smiles of a Summer Night in 1955.

It was more than just creative genius that turned the Swede into a household name though.

“Bergman was lucky in some ways - he became successful at just the right time,” says Maaret Koskinen, professor in film studies at Stockholm University - which in its former incarnation as Stockholm University College was Bergman's alma mater.

The first factor that helped Bergman succeed was the growth of film studies as an academic discipline.

"This was especially relevant at the end of the 50s with Seventh Seal, and Wild Strawberries, films that were food for thought and, more important perhaps, food for analysis," says Koskinen.

Bergman was also aided by the fact that his career coincided with the golden age of film criticism:

"Film critics had more sway on public opinion then than they do today," according to Koskinen.

A third helping hand came from a changing society:

"The sexual revolution was going on and in America particularly, the fight against censorship, both in books and films was in full swing," says Koskinen.

"The Silence helped chip away at the American censorship laws and push Bergman’s brand further. A tiny fraction of the film was censored, but it was enough to get authoritative voices like Norman Mailer jumping to his defence and, in doing so, solidifying his reputation."

But these three factors would have meant little if his work was not of exceptional quality in the first place.

Bergman had proved himself by creating artistic work, often wrapped up in existential angst, that would beguile and thrill both critics and the public. He picked up the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for two consecutive years, with The Virgin Spring in 1960 and Through a Glass Darkly in 1961.

Fittingly, he won his third Academy Award in 1983 for the last feature film he made, Fanny and Alexander, a drama about an upper-middle class family, set in Uppsala in the 19th Century.

Little did he know at the time but 'Brand Bergman' was also paving the way for generations of his compatriots such as Mai Zetterling, Arne Mattson and Roy Andersson, who have gone on to make Sweden a country known as a home to great filmmaking.

More recently Lasse Hallström (pictured above with wife Lena Olin, who starred in numerous Bergman films), won Oscar nominations for My Life as a Dog and The Cider House Rules and further success with What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat and Casanova.

But while Bergman has inspired many, his greatness has sometimes had a tendency to cast a shadow over everything and everyone coming out of Sweden’s film industry.

Certainly Fanny and Alexander had such a large budget that it left little money for other projects in the industry at the time, but Koskinen claims that the lack of high level success in the early eighties was more down to a lack of quality generally than simply finance. In any case, Sweden did at that time became known for some great documentary makers, like Stefan Jarl, she argues.

"Bergman aside, it is also critical that Sweden has been known traditionally as somewhere that offers high quality in terms of film workers. It is a stamp of quality to be from here," she says.

His reputation undoubtedly also helped the careers of some of the country’s most in-demand figures today. The films of the Stieg Larsson Millennium books - both the Swedish and English versions - have wowed audiences over the past few years. Another leading Swedish film director, is Tomas Alfredson, who scored a hit internationally with the offbeat romantic vampire film Let the Right One In and recently won similar acclaim for his remake of the classic Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Ingmar Bergman’s films and Larsson’s books may differ in many ways, but the author is carrying on a tradition perhaps owing more to the director than anyone else, for bringing Sweden and its creativity to the attention of a larger global audience. What the country lacks in numbers, it more than makes up for in creativity and artistic productivity.

Stockholm University is one of the leading centres for cinema or film studies in Europe. Many courses are taught in English, including a Master's Programme in Cinema Studies.

Article sponsored by Stockholm University

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

NEWS_NOT_YET_IMPORTED
Today's headlines
National
Swedish man beats bus in video challenge
Busses in Sundbyberg could be targeted by copycat runners. Photo: TT

Swedish man beats bus in video challenge

After a video of a man sprinting between underground stops in London went viral last week, a Swedish runner took up the challenge of beating his bus in Sundbyberg in north west Stockholm. READ  

National
Flood and high wind warning in east Sweden
Stockholm experienced heavy rain on Sunday. Photo: TT

Flood and high wind warning in east Sweden

After heavy rain broke off the September sunshine in eastern Sweden on Sunday, forecasters warn more bad weather is on the way. READ  

Tech
World car record on Malmö bridge

World car record on Malmö bridge

The longest electric car parade on a bridge between two countries was formed on the Öresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark on Sunday, with environmental campaigners breaking several other world records in the process. READ  

National
Two hurt in Helsingborg ferry crash
The damaged ferry is being inspected on Monday. Photo: TT

Two hurt in Helsingborg ferry crash

UPDATED: A ferry crashed into a pier in the port of Helsingborg in southern Sweden on Sunday night, with two people taken to hospital following the collision. READ  

Elections 2014
Waiting game for Social Democrat leader
Stefan Löfven will return to parliament on Friday. Photo: TT

Waiting game for Social Democrat leader

Stefan Löfven, who has been tasked with forming Sweden's next government, is facing an anxious few days ahead of his next crucial meeting with Parliament's speaker on Friday. READ  

National
Northern Swedes wake up to September snow

Northern Swedes wake up to September snow

Summer has come to a definite end in Kiruna as residents of the northern town were greeted with a blanket of snow on Sunday morning. READ  

Elections 2014
Ex-Prime Minister: Sweden is falling apart
Former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson. Photo: Leo Sellén/TT

Ex-Prime Minister: Sweden is falling apart

Former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson has said that the election success of the Sweden Democrats is a "slap" in the face for the Stockholm establishment. READ  

National
Trio prosecuted for hate attack against Somalis
Somali nationals taking part in a demonstration against deportations in Stockholm. File photo:Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/ TT

Trio prosecuted for hate attack against Somalis

Three young men in southern Sweden suspected of attacking Somali refugees with stones and screaming "sieg heil" have been indicted on charges of racial agitation. READ  

National
Swedish airfares to get cheaper in 2015

Swedish airfares to get cheaper in 2015

Sweden is set to buck the European trend of rising air prices with fares expected to drop next year according to a new report. READ  

National
Swede's homemade submarine nets fortune
Eric Westerberg's homemade submarine Isabelle. Photo: PS.nu

Swede's homemade submarine nets fortune

A Swedish submarine enthusiast who spent over 3,500 hours making his own vessel has sold his prized possession for 705,000 kronor ($98,500) in an online auction. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: September 20th
The 'black gold' of Sweden's west coast.
National
West Sweden prepares for the 2014 lobster premiere
Society
What's on in Sweden
Politics
How Sweden Democrats went mainstream
Politics
Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?
Blog updates

20 September

How a Frog Can Save the Environment (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"What we do we imagine when we think of children enjoying nature? Perhaps it’s fishing, marveling at lightning bugs on a muggy July day or blowing on the wispy petals of a dandelion to make a special wish. But perhaps most iconic of the playful innocence in childhood is hopping after and trying to catch..." READ »

 

19 September

Editor’s blog (The Local Sweden) »

"Happy Friday readers! It sure has been a exciting week in Sweden, where we’re set to get a new Prime Minister after Fredrik Reinfeldt stepped down following Sunday’s elections. The Local blogged live from the key political gatherings across Stockholm. Why not re-visit the action by taking a look at our photos, tweets, videos and analysis? Since the..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
Property of the week - Eskilstuna
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Society
How I became a surf blogger when I moved to Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Society
Why is Stockholm's Södermalm so cool?
Gallery
People-watching: September 11th
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Politics
Five possible election outcomes
Politics
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Politics
Sweden elections: Who's who?
Gallery
Property of the week - Hornstull, Stockholm
Analysis
Five differences between the UK and Sweden
Welshman Jonny Luck is now a chef in Sweden
Society
How I opened my own restaurant in Sweden's Malmö
Sponsored Article
Stockholm tech fest: relive the magic
Gallery
People-watching September 8th
Photo: TT
Politics
Feminists fight for first seats
Politics
Immigration cut push from Sweden Democrats
Sheryl Sandberg says women have "low expectations"
Tech
Facebook exec talks women's limits in Swedish business
Politics
Left Party calls for justice and equality
Politics
Green Party wants 'better world' for kids
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

846
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN