Hidden Bergman ‘masterpiece’ to hit Swedish screens

A previously unknown Ingmar Bergman manuscript about the 1960s sexual and social revolution is to be turned into a movie, nearly a decade after the Swedish director's death.

Hidden Bergman 'masterpiece' to hit Swedish screens
A photo of Ingmar Bergman in the Ingmar Bergman Institute. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP
“Sixty-four minutes with Rebecka,” written by the legendary filmmaker when he was aged 51, was found in 2002 when Bergman donated his work to an institute in his name, shelved among thousands of letters, completed screenplays and photographs.
“Finding an unknown but finished Ingmar Bergman screenplay would be the equivalent of finding a manuscript by Hemingway or if not Shakespeare,” Jan Holmberg, head of the Ingmar Berman Foundation, told AFP.
Known for broaching issues of death, loneliness and religious self-doubt, Bergman portrays the main character Rebecka as an emotionally alienated teacher of deaf mutes, seeking sexual and political liberation during the
tumultuous 1960s.
“This is the mature artist at his very best, making one of his masterpieces,” Holmberg said.
The married Rebecka visits a sex club while she is pregnant and decides to leave her forgiving husband in the hand-written script, which touches on gay relationships, desire, guilt and mental suffering.
Bergman, who was an introverted and conservative filmmaker, portrays the era's frenetic sexual and social revolution in the script, which was originally meant to be a movie collaboration between Bergman, Federico Fellini
and Akira Kurosawa, a trio of directing giants.
Fellini had contacted Bergman in 1962 to ask if the Swedish director would be interested in filming a joint movie series with Kurosawa, who years later dropped out for unknown reasons, according to Holmberg.
In 1968, Bergman and Fellini signed a Hollywood contract to turn the script into a joint motion picture, but when the Italian screenwriter did not keep his part of the agreement, Bergman was offered to direct the film by himself.
Suffering a major blow to profits because of the emergence and dominance of television in the 1960s, the US film industry began to diversify, drawing inspiration from European cinema.
Holmberg said several letters sent back and forth between Bergman and movie executives indicated “an increasingly irritated atmosphere, where the movie companies suddenly wanted the film to be longer than what had been thought earlier” to turn it into a TV series.
He noted that the script has “many daring sex scenes, homosexuality and violent sexuality… which would never have been shown on American TV in the 60s”.
Adapted into a radio play which premiered in Sweden on November 6, the script was directed by 72-year-old Suzanne Osten, a renowned Swedish filmmaker who had a conflicted relationship with Bergman throughout her career.
“We had a few confrontations and he was generally known as controlling, but no one has ever questioned his quality as a filmmaker and artist,” Osten told AFP.
“I would never have made it if he lived today. He was a conservative old man and became even more conservative. But he was also a very sensitive artist,” said Osten, who is set to direct the movie adaptation of “64 minutes with Rebecka” in 2018.
Holmberg said Bergman would probably have “turned in his grave” if he knew Osten was directing the script, but later “calm down and realise that this is a pretty fantastic way to continue his legacy.
“He and Susanne were often enemies and stood on opposite sides in the political and cultural rebellion at the end of the 60s,” he added.
“She is younger than Bergman was and stands for something different… This will be a feminist reinterpretation of Bergman,” Holmberg said.
The son of a Lutheran minister and a nurse, Bergman was born in 1918 in the Swedish town of Uppsala, north of Stockholm, and had a strict religious upbringing, noticeable in many of his films.
Bergman, who married five times and had nine children, also directed the psychological drama “Persona” (1966), “The Seventh Seal (1957) and “Fanny and Alexander” (1982), which won four Academy Awards in 1984.
He died in 2007 at the age of 89 in Faro, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea where he filmed several of his movies.

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Ingmar Bergman’s home up for auction

The children of world-renowned Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman are carrying out their late father’s wishes to have his home auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Ingmar Bergman’s home up for auction
Photo: Anders Wiklund/Scanpix (File)

“We have no idea who the buyer will be,” said son Daniel Bergman to the Aftonbladet newspaper.

The will of the famed Swedish film director, who died on July 30th of last year, specifies that his five properties on the isolated Baltic island of Fårö be sold, including his home, affectionately known as Hammars.

Bergman’s children are now looking for a real estate agent to manage the sale of the home on the international market.

Documentary filmmaker and friend Marie Nyreröd, recalled how important the house was to Bergman, who helped design the sprawling seaside estate.

“For him it was security and inspiration,” she told Expressen.

Nyreröd also stressed that the home is an invaluable piece of Swedish cultural history.

“It would be a shame if it disappeared into the hands of a private individual,” she said.

Bergman purchased the land in the early 1960s and built his house in 1967.

Bergman’s extensive family gathered at the home on Fårö for the first of its famed annual birthday celebrations in 1978, when the titan of Swedish cinema turned 60.

Over the years, Bergman became a staple in the local community on Fårö, where he is buried next to his wife Ingrid in the local cemetery.

However, many speculate that the sale of the house portents the Bergman family’s abandonment of the island which is in many ways with Bergman’s isolated private life.

“Yes, it looks that way,” said son Daniel to Aftonbladet.

Altogether, Bergman’s Fårö properties have a tax value of 10.3 kronor ($1.72 million), but its eventual market value remains anyone’s guess.

“Fårö has always been expensive, but this is a unique place. It can be worth as much as one can imagine,” said Gotland real estate agent Leif Bertwig to Expressen.

Bergmans’ inheritance, including proceeds from the sale of the house, is to be divided equally nine ways, one for each of his eight surviving children, as well as the children of Bergman’s son Jan who died in 2000.