Scenes from a Marriage

Johan and Marianne in bed

Time has robbed Ingmar Bergman’s film Scenes from a Marriage of some of its force but even so, if a forensic examination of a happy marriage’s collapse is what you’re looking for, it’s never been done better than it was here. I’m talking about the 1974 movie version, not the original 6x45minute TV mini-series it was cut down from. TV was what Scenes from a Marriage was made for, and also ensured that Bergman’s film wasn’t eligible for any Oscar action (one of the many nonsensical nose/face strictures which the Academy has been forced to back down on over the years). Because it was “TV first” and had aired the previous year, it … Read more


War planes swing low over the smallholding

Shame is Ingmar Bergman’s war movie. Except, being an Ingmar Bergman movie, it’s really about relationships, a marriage in trouble (probably Bergman’s own – number four was heading for the exit), and something else on top. Kriget (The War) was Bergman’s original title for it, but Skammen (literally, The Shame) is what Bergman settled on. So, not a generalised Shame but a specific instance of it. What that shame might be precisely is what Bergman will eventually reveal, but he starts out by painting a portrait of two former orchestral musicians (wife number four, Käbi Laretei was a concert pianist) who have given it all up to live the good life, growing and selling … Read more

Wild Strawberries

Old Isak and young Sara

Ingmar Bergman released both Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal in 1957. So not one but two classics for the ages in one year from the same guy, who wasn’t very well at the time and in fact wrote the screenplay for this film in his hospital bed. Not bad going. Perhaps it’s not surprising that decay and death are the big idea, the story of a lonely old doctor on the way to pick up an honour whose ardently held and rather severe ideas about the way to live his life are challenged, even as he sits in the waiting room to Death. As he travels by car, and prompted by a … Read more

Fanny and Alexander

Fanny and Alexander

Fanny and Alexander won four Academy Awards at the Oscars in 1984 and was the first foreign movie to have done so. No foreign movie has ever won more and Ingmar Bergman’s film has only been matched twice in the years since – by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Parasite (2019). At the time it was the most expensive film ever to come out of Sweden and was designed by Bergman to be his last, a grand autobiographical flourish to explain the man behind a remarkable run of astonishing movies as the director started to look back at his accomplishments. With that autobiographical aspect in mind, and armed with the knowledge that … Read more


Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson

Ingmar Bergman beat Mr Spock to the mind meld. Persona, Bergman’s masterwork about one person’s identity merging with another’s, debuted in August 1966. The Vulcan psychic control technique first saw light of cathode ray in November of the same year in the Star Trek episode Dagger of the Mind. We’ve heard plenty from Mr Spock in the intervening decades, increasingly less from the once intensely voguish Bergman. But for anyone wondering where to go to get the full Bergman hit in one short, sharp dose, Persona is that place. The film follows a famous actress Elisabet (played by Liv Ullmann), suddenly an elective mute, and her nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson) on a journey … Read more