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