Chances are, if you are into movies at all and like to gather some background information about the people behind them, you have heard or read the name Ingmar Bergman somewhere, sometime. For me personally, it was in fact my Latin professor back in High School about ten years ago, who brought the Swedish Filmmaker to my attention. He told me something along the lines of “… you should really check out those movies Goat, I think you would really like them”.
And right he was – even though a good ten years have passed, I still find inspiration and a certain type of comfort in them. They stimulate my mind, awakening a deep interest and passion for life and make me want to investigate “what’s out there” – they make me remember that life is a journey, after all.
So since I am the type of person who likes to share stuff I find inspirational, here is a list of 5 movies by Bergman that I really enjoyed watching.
They are in no particular order, just randomly put together, so no need to scroll down to get to the “top of the list” – they are next to impossible to rank anyway.
Wikipedia links will be provided with every list entry.
Keep in mind that, whilst the movies presented here are fabulous and in my opinion do well in capturing the “Bergman spirit”, going through them will probably only make you scratch the surface of what Bergman has to offer to you, personally.
Just one more thing: All the movies included in this list, with the exception of Höstsonaten, are in black/white. Given the release dates, it should be self-explanatory, that there will be no such thing as “Special Effects” in the films. So if you are one of those people who can’t stand “old movies”, then this list is not for you.
Alright then, let’s kickstart this list with some whack stuff. Vargtimmen aka The Hour of The Wolf is a 1968 movie by Bergman, shot primarily on the island of Fårö, that depicts a mentally ill painter slipping into utter insanity. This was actually the first movie by Bergman that I ever watched and when I did, I remember thinking «This is it!» – in the sense that the film perfectly incorporated the melancholic, eerie, empty and cold feeling I had been feeling all my life, which I unsuccessfully sought represented in the outside world. I immediately felt at home with this and have been hooked ever since.
The movie is in part based on Bergmans personal experiences as well as his recurring nightmares, which offers an explanation as to why it has such a deeply personal feel to it.
As is often the case with his works, Vargtimmen is part of a loose, thematically related trilogy that also includes the preceding Skammen and the follow-up En passion.
Höstsonaten aka Autumn Sonata from 1978 is a movie that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me right from the spot. Though this might be due to the fact that it requires a certain disposition from the viewer – namely, the willingness to tap into the emotional struggles presented in the plot.
If you are in the right mood however, Höstsonaten is a compelling movie to watch. Bergman brilliantly manages to turn the interpersonal relationships between the main characters into a very relatable emotional rollercoaster that makes the characters come to life and build up tension, which is then suddenly discharged at the peak of the movie.
After the movie, I remember sitting in my bed, lighting a cigarette thinking “Damn, that was an awesome and interesting movie. But how? It’s basically just about a couple getting a visit from their mother-in-law – how did I get so engaged?”
This movie sticks out from the rest on this list as it is not necessarily mental-illness-themed nor a “horror” movie in the traditional sense, but focuses on the very real, emotional “horror” that can be contained in the relationship between a mother and her child (and especially, the all-too-well-known archetype of the disagreeable mother-in-law).
With it’s release dating back to 1953, Det sjunde inseglet aka The Seventh Seal is one of Bergmans earlier and most well-known works. In contrast to to other picks on this list, that are mostly “theme-driven” in their nature, this one features an actual, easy to follow concept that runs like a common thread through the whole movie. That is, that of a disillisuioned knight who, having lost faith in Christianity (and even humanity?) sets out on an epic, spiritual journey to find the meaning of life, or at the very least, to make sense of his own. All this whilst looking death in the eye, as they are mutually trying to trick each other time and time again as the storyline continues to unfold.
We even get to see Death in person, awkwardly presented to our modern, hollywood-spoiled eyes.
Definitely recommend this one to anyone who finds joy in watching movies that encourage you to conetmplate life and mortality on a deeper level.
Through a glass darkly
Even though I’m having a hard time deciding, Through a Glass Darkly from 1961 might be my personal favorite on this list. The sheer eeriness and subtle insanity (not so subtle most of the time actually) of this work is just the kind of shit that I’m into.
The fact that it has mental illness (Schizophrenia) as a theme makes it even more interesting. Knowing people suffering from Schizophrenia/Psychosis, I would argue that Bergmans take on the subject matter (not the only one he did) is relatively realistic, especially in comparison to modern Hollywood representations. Considering this movie was released in ‘61, this is even more impressive.
Ok, I’ll admit it: Tystnaden (The Silence) from 1963 was a weird one and to this day I am uncertain of whether I was able to get a whole lot out of it. I loved the atmosphere though, and I enjoyed the weirdness of its (seemingly) non-plot.
Also, it’s got this weird scene with the strangely dressed dwarves, gotta love that one.
Throughout the movie, I actually tried to figure out what country it was set in and was pretty sure it had to be Finland, only to learn later that it is not a real country, but instead fictional. Given the time the movie was released in and the fact that it features undisguised sexual intercourse in some scenes, I guess Bergman was in part also trying to shock people, as Sexuality was still kind of a taboo-ish topic back then.
Tystnaden is actually the third and final chapter of a trilogy comprised of the aforementioned Through a Glass Darkly as well as Winter Light.
So that’s it for now. Of course Bergman’s filmography offers a whole cosmos of inspirational material to engage with, maybe this article is to be continued. To further read up on Bergman follow the link provided below.
Ingmar Bergman: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingmar_Bergman