Cannes features Bergman documentary trilogy

Tuesday sees the documentary trilogy Ingmar Bergman Complete: Bergman And The Cinema / Bergman And The Theatre / Bergman And Fårö Island directed by Marie Nyreröd screened in the Cannes Classic section of the 58th Cannes Film Festival.

This well-made documentary series screened on Swedish Television during the past year was one of the most popular programs of 2004. Nyreröd takes us back to the location where Bergman wrote his first screenplay in Filmstaden, Råsunda, outside of Stockholm.

Bergman shows us the office where he worked on films and where Greta Garbo paid him a visit. This is also where he learned about film-making from Victor Sjöström, the silent film director that later went to Hollywood and had a successful career. At Filmstaden Bergman directed some of his golden hits: The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957) and Winter Light (1963).

Several of his films were made at Bergman’s present home, Fårö (Sheep Island), an island off the coast of Sweden and the subject of Bergman and Fårö. We discover from the documentary that he found the island by chance as a result of needing a pebbled beach for scenes in Through a Glass Darkly (1961).

Bergman not only filmed features and theatre but has kept a small camera with him since the 1950s. Rare excerpts from his “film diary” are a special treat included in the documentary.

The documentary Bergman and the Theater explores his forty year relationship with the Royal Dramatic Theater (Dramaten). All in all he directed 125 plays, in Stockholm, Malmö and Helsingborg. Many people are not aware that the cult film Scenes from a Marriage about a married couple on the rocks was a play shot for television.

It stars Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson, and when it was broadcast the streets of Sweden were apparently empty, with most of the population at home in front of their TV sets. The TV play in fact raised the divorce rate in Sweden. Bergman’s latest film is a continuation of the characters Johan and Marianne in this original TV play, Saraband (2003) and features Ullmann and Josephson.

Bergman’s eternal presence will always be felt at Cannes, where he won the coveted Golden Palm for Smiles of a Summer Night in 1953. Ironically the film was a comedy and quite different from most of his later somber pieces such as The Seventh Seal, The Magician and Persona. The Cannes award was a door opener to Bergman’s international career where his films have found generous international distribution since then and are known all over the world.

Catherine Deneuve, who gave a Master Class on acting at Cannes on May 12th, follows a tradition set last year by one of Bergman’s most beloved screen actors Max von Sydow – the first actor to give a Master Class at Cannes. Deneuve revealed in the class that she admires the intimacy that Ingmar Bergman can convey in his films.

Another director that esteems the work of Bergman is Woody Allen, at Cannes this year with his new film Match Point, starring Scarlet Johansson, an actress of Danish descent, who was present with the director on the red carpet to open the film.

Moira Sullivan

Moira Sullivan is a freelance journalist and member of the Swedish Film Critics’ Association


How a Swedish film festival is offering a nurse downtime during pandemic

A front-line Swedish nurse is getting some Covid downtime with a week of private screenings of the Gothenburg film festival, in a former lighthouse off the country's west coast.

How a Swedish film festival is offering a nurse downtime during pandemic
Competition winner Lisa Enroth.

More than 12,000 candidates from 45 countries applied to watch the festival's films in almost near isolation on an island 400 kilometres (250 miles) from Stockholm.

The prize is a week viewing as many of the festival's 70 premieres as they like in a hotel in the former Pater Noster Lighthouse. But they will be in isolation and will have no access to their own computer or laptop.

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The bright-red lighthouse, built on a tiny island off Sweden's west coast in 1868, is surrounded by a scattering of squat, red buildings originally built to house the lighthouse keeper's family. It can only be reached by boat or helicopter, depending on the weather.

After a series of interviews and tests, festival organisers chose emergency nurse and film buff Lisa Enroth for the prize, in keeping with the 2021 festival's theme, Social Distances.

Before boarding a small speedboat out to the island on the clear, chill winter's morning, Enroth said she had applied not only out of her love for the cinema, but also to seek respite from her hectic work as an emergency nurse during the pandemic.

“It has been hectic, so it's a nice opportunity just to be able to land and to reflect over the year,” she said.

Months working amid Covid crisis

Sweden, which has taken a light-touch approach to the pandemic compared to its neighbours, has been facing a stronger than expected second wave of the virus. So far, more than 11,500 people have died from Covid-19 across the country.

Enroth works in the emergency ward of a hospital in Skovde in central Sweden. Since the start of the pandemic, her hospital's work caring for virus patients on top of their regular workload has been intense.

Lisa Enroth on her way to the remote festival location. Photo: AFP

“We had a lot of Covid cases during this year and every patient that has been admitted to the hospital has been passing through the emergency ward,” she told journalists.

The organisers said they were surprised by the numbers of applicants for the prize but were confident they had chosen the right candidate — not only for her love of cinema.

“She has also dedicated this past year in the frontline against the Covid-19 pandemic,” the festival's creative director Jonas Holmberg said to AFP.

“That's also one of the reasons we chose her”. 

Isolated screenings

Boarding the boat dressed in a thick survival suit, Enroth sped over the calm, icy waters, jumping off in the island's tiny harbour and disappearing into her lodgings.

A screen has been set up in the lantern room at the top of the windswept island's lighthouse, offering a 360-degree view of the sea and coastline around.

Another wide screen has been set up in one of the island's buildings.

Enroth will also have a tablet and headphones if she wants to watch films elsewhere on the island, which measures just 250 metres by 150 metres.

With only one other person staying permanently on the island — a safety precaution — Enroth's only contact with the outside world will be through her video diary about the films she has viewed.

The festival's films will be shown online and two venues in Gothenburg itself will allow screenings for just one person at a time.

Holmberg, the festival's creative director, said he hoped events like these would maintain interest in the industry at a time when many screens are closed because of pandemic restrictions.

“We are longing so much to come back to the cinemas and in the meantime we have to be creative and do the things that we can to create discussion,” he told journalists.