Reading time: 25 MIN

21 Reasons to Love... Ingmar Bergman

All mentioned films in article
Not released
Not released
Not released
Not released
Not released
Not released

Ingmar Bergman is one of the titans of world cinema. Spanning seven decades, his career was notable for its remarkably high levels of both creativity and consistency. Something of a one-man new wave, he helped transform screen storytelling and proved crucial to the emergence of what is now called 'arthouse cinema'. If you're still not convinced by his greatness, let Cinema Paradiso provide you with 21 reasons to love the work of a true master.

A still from Fanny and Alexander (1982)
A still from Fanny and Alexander (1982)

The son of a Lutheran pastor and his second cousin, Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born in the Swedish city of Uppsala on 14 July 1918. As he would record in his screenplays for Bille August's The Best Intentions and son Daniel Bergman's Sunday's Children (both 1992), the relationship between parents Erik and Karin was always tense and it's a crying shame that neither film is currently available on disc, especially as the former won the Palme d'or at Cannes. However, Cinema Paradiso users can gain an impression of life in the Bergman household through Fanny and Alexander (1982), a film à clef that won four Academy Awards for its harrowing reconstruction of events endured by Ingmar, his older brother Dag and their younger sister, Margareta.

A projector and a toy theatre feature prominently in this handsome evocation of the religious discipline that shaped Bergman's personality and beliefs. He was six when he saw David Smith's 1921 adaptation of Anna Sewell's much-filmed children's classic Black Beauty (Cinema Paradiso has eight of them to rent - tap the title into the searchline to see which ones). One Christmas, Ingmar swapped his toy soldiers for the projector Dag had been given and started buying film strips to re-edit into his own stories. He produced dozens of these over the next few years and modelled the comic interlude in Prison (1949) on his homemade silent style. In the early 1930s, he also built his own puppet theatre to give self-penned shows with his sister.

Despite describing a visit to the Svensk Filmindustri studio as 'just like entering heaven', Bergman decided he wanted to become a theatre director while studying literature and the history of art at the University of Stockholm. Such was his obsession with amateur dramatics that he flunked his degree, although he did write a dissertation on his hero, August Strindberg, whose celebrated play, Miss Julie, was memorably directed by Mike Figgis in 1999. Saffron Burrows takes the title role, while Susannah York also delivers a strong performance in 'The Creditors', another Strindberg drama that can be found on Volume Two of ITV's Armchair Theatre (1956-73).

Bergman would also go on to work regularly for the small screen, although surprisingly few of his TV outings have found their way on to disc. If it hadn't been for a furious fight with his father in 1940, however, he might not have made his way in the performing arts at all, as Erik was intent on his son taking up a respectable profession. However, Bergman stormed out and didn't speak to his parents for four years, by which time he had taken his first steps towards cinematic immortality.

1) Divine Inspiration

A still from Searching for Ingmar Bergman (2018)
A still from Searching for Ingmar Bergman (2018)

During her centenary documentary, Searching For Ingmar Bergman (2018), German director Margarethe von Trotta suggested that the Swedish maestro was a child who never grew up because he spent his entire life rebelling against his strict upbringing. Indeed, echoing Bergman's contention that art is the best form of therapy, Von Trotta even claimed that his cinema was a means of resolving the issues that had been caused by the conflicted emotions emanating from his childhood.

Erik Bergman might have been so popular with his parishioners that he became chaplain to the Swedish royal family, but he was strict, aloof and occasionally aggressive towards his children. Ingmar claimed to have borne the brunt of his fury, which was partially due to Karin's liaison with another parson. Yet he also enjoyed the atmosphere of the parochial house and the slide shows that his father gave to his Sunday school classes. But, while he believed in God, Ingmar was also afraid of Him and his youthful dread of punishment in the afterlife was eventually replaced by a fear that God had abandoned humanity to its fate.

Unsurprisingly, religion plays a key role in many Bergman pictures. Yet it was a crisis of belief in the early 1960s that prompted his most important works on the theme. Based on a 13th-century fable, The Virgin Spring (1960) tells of the miracle that occurs after farmer Herr Töre (Max von Sydow) vows to build a church in atonement for killing the goatherds who had raped and murdered his saintly daughter, Karin (Birgitta Pettersson). Influenced by Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950), this updating of the rustic saga that had long dominated Swedish literature and cinema won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and Bergman repeated the feat with his next outing, Through a Glass Darkly (1961).

Turning the focus away from God's role in the world to human weakness in the face of His absence, this intense drama formed the first part of the 'metaphysical' or 'chamber' trilogy that led to Bergman being regarded as a philosopher, as well as an artist. Anton Chekhov's The Seagull (which was filmed by Michael Mayer in 2018) informs a narrative that centres on the psychological meltdown suffered by Karin (Harriet Andersson), who comes to believe while holidaying on an island with her novelist father David (Gunnar Björnstrand), her brother Minus (Lars Passgård) and her husband, Martin (Max von Sydow) that God is a giant spider intent on trapping her in its web.

A still from Winter Light (1962)
A still from Winter Light (1962)

Culminating in the notion that love proves the existence of God, this disturbing domestic drama was followed by Winter Light (1962), a gloomier dissertation on divine judgement and human frailty that sees widowed Lutheran pastor Tomas Ericsson (Gunnar Björnstrand) offer little consolation to suicidal parishioner Jonas (Max von Sydow) and nothing but callous cruelty to his erstwhile teacher mistress, Märta (Ingrid Thulin). Yet, Tomas retains sufficient hope in God's mercy to conduct a Sunday evening service in his empty chapel. Described by Bergman's third wife, pianist Käbi Lareti as 'a dreary masterpiece', this visually striking Passion Play marked a tonal and stylistic shift that would be confirmed in The Silence (1963), the concluding part of the triptych, to which we shall return in the section on the Cold War.

2) The Sjöström Factor

During Bergman's youth, Sweden boasted two of silent cinema's most innovative talents. Mauritz Stiller would best be remembered for 'discovering' Greta Garbo, while Victor Sjöström would produce a series of silent classics based on the works of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Selma Lagerlöf, including Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness, which was released as The Phantom Carriage (1921). This Expressionist masterpiece earned Sjöström an invitation to Hollywood, where he respectively directed Lon Chaney and Lillian Gish in He Who Gets Slapped (1924) and The Wind (1928) under the anglicised named, Victor Seastrom. However, he failed to settle Stateside and was working as artistic director at Svensk Filmindustri when he came across an ambitious playwright-cum-director who had landed a job in the script department.

None of Bergman's early scripts were bought by the studio, but Sjöström admired his intensity and encouraged him to keep submitting ideas. Indeed, it was on Sjöström's recommendation that Alf Sjöberg made Torment (1944), a simmering melodrama in which tobacconist's assistant Bertha (Mai Zetterling) becomes caught up in the battle of wills between school student Jan-Erik (Alf Kjellin) and his sadistic teacher, Caligula (Stig Järrel). Sjöström further leant his support to Bergman when he played the conductor in To Joy (1950), an early directorial effort that turns around another ménage, this time between married violinists Maj-Britt Nilsson and Stig Olin and the latter's lothario friend, John Ekman.

However, Sjöström would play an even more pivotal part in Wild Strawberries (1957), as Isak Borg, an ageing academic who drives to Lund to collect an honorary degree with his petulant son, Evald (Gunnar Björnstrand), and his indulgent daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin). Between the nightmares and reveries that occupy the journey, Borg also comes to reflect on the good and the bad moments in his life when they stop to pick up three young hitch-hikers (Bibi Andersson, Folke Sundquist and Björn Bjelvenstam) and a bickering married couple (Gunnar Sjöberg and Gunnel Bjoström). The winner of the Golden Bear at Berlin, this cerebral road movie not only references Shakespeare and Strindberg, but also Sjöström's silent technique.

The Male Ensemble

During his six years at the Gothenburg City Theatre, Bergman learned the value of a good troupe of actors and how he could only improvise and experiment once he had learned to work collaboratively. Although he made stars of some of his players, Bergman would rely on a stock company throughout his film career, with familiar faces popping up in several features.

The two actors who recurred most frequently during Bergman's neo-realist phase (see below) were Stig Olin and Birger Malmsten. The former was an orphan who often played the director's alter ego in his early outings and teamed in Prison and To Joy with Malmsten, who had first worked with Bergman on stage in the early 1940s. With his pin-up looks, he personified the questing angst that Bergman felt at this period and appeared in nine pictures between Torment and Waiting Women (1952).

The latter also featured Jarl Kulle, a fine character actor who would later essay the general in Gabriel Axel's sublime adaptation of Karen Blixen's Babette's Feast (1987), which is available from Cinema Paradiso on high-quality DVD and Blu-ray. He also excelled as Don Juan in Bergman's The Devil's Eye (1960), alongside two more stalwarts, Stig Järrel and Nils Poppe, who respectively play Old Nick and the naive pastor whose daughter's virginity has caused a sty to form in his eye. Bergman hated the film, but it's actually one of his wittiest outings.

Over the years, Bengt Ekerot, Åke Fridell, Anders Ek and Allan Edwall returned regularly to the Bergman fold in supporting roles. But, with the exception of Max von Sydow (see below), his two most dependable character players were Gunnar Björnstrand and Erland Josephson. Once dubbed the Swedish Cary Grant, Björnstrand had been a classmate of Ingrid Bergman at the Royal Dramatic Theatre Acting School. However, he detested Ingmar when they first met and they only became friends after a furious argument in a taxi. In all, Björnstrand made 19 films with Bergman, including A Lesson in Love (1954), in which he sparkles as a philandering gynaecologist who realises he's getting too old to flirt and needs to stop wife Eva Dahlbeck from reuniting with the fiancé she had jilted 16 years earlier.

A still from Dreams (1955)
A still from Dreams (1955)

The pair also figured in Dreams (1955), a brooding condemnation of the infantile insecurity of middle-aged men that sees the unhappily married Björnstrand chase young model Harriet Andersson, while fashionista Dahlbeck contemplates a reunion with old flame, Ulf Palme. Björnstrand's finest performance came after a brush with death, with his portrayal of the pastor in Winter Light being compared to that of Claude Leydu's tormented cleric in Robert Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest (1950). By the time he took a small role in Fanny and Alexander, however, he had been replaced in the Bergman ranks by Erland Josephson.

No one worked with the director over a longer period (from 1940-2004), with his finest performances coming during the toughest period in Bergman's career after he sought to rebuild his reputation following accusations of tax evasion in 1976. In total, Josephson appeared in 15 films and teleplays, with his most brilliant work coming in Scenes From a Marriage (1973), in which he cheats on Liv Ullmann with a cruelty that Bergman admitted was based on his own misdemeanours. Unlike many of his peers, Josephson often worked outside Sweden and Cinema Paradiso can bring you such exceptional credits as Andrei Tarkovsky's Nostalgia (1983) and The Sacrifice (1986), Philip Kaufman's The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1987), Theo Angelopoulos's 8 (1995) and Liv Ullmann's Faithless (2001), which was made from an old Bergman screenplay.

4) A Neo-Realist Apprenticeship

It took Bergman a while to find his own style. But, rather than embrace Hollywood classicism, he adopted the neo-realism that had emerged in Italy following Luchino Visconti's Ossessione (1942). The critics weren't kind to his debut, Crisis (1946), which sees small-town innocent Inga Landgré falling prey to mother Marianne Löfgren's big city lover, Stig Olin. However, its use of mirrors and dreams established a trend that would continue throughout Bergman's career. He also proved he could draw strong performances from his actors, as he did with Barbro Kollberg and Birger Malmsten, who play a young couple overcoming problems at the start of their relationship in It Rains on Our Love (1946).

Malmsten would return as the son of captain Holger Löwenadler, who falls for his father's chorus girl mistress Gertrud Fridh in A Ship Bound For India (1947), But producer Lorens Marmstedt wanted Bergman to focus less on visual tone and make a sentimental melodrama that would appeal to popular taste. Even so, he managed to make innovative use of point-of-view shots in Music in Darkness, as Birger Malmsten overcomes his class prejudice to romance Mai Zetterling, the nurse who had cared for him after he had gone blind while saving a puppy. However, Bergman changed tack in Port of Call (both 1948) by putting a political spin on the hardships facing psychologically scarred Gothenburg waif Nine-Christine Jönsson and sailor Bengt Eklund.

While few of these films made money, they bolstered Bergman's growing reputation and producer David O. Selznick tried to lure him to Hollywood to adapt Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House for Alf Sjöberg. Instead, he remained in Sweden to make Prison, a punishing exercise in noirish realism that sees married screenwriter Birger Malmsten contemplate a depiction of Hell on Earth based on his encounter with prostitute Doris Svedlund and her brutal pimp, Stig Olin. As the decade ended and Bergman decided to move on from neo-realism, he allowed his own marital difficulties with Ellen Lundström to inform Three Strange Loves (both 1949), in which art historian Birger Malmsten and fading ballerina Eva Henning decide to stay together because they can't bear the thought of being alone, like Malmsten's despairing ex-lover, Birgit Tenroth, who seeks the comfort of lesbian Mimi Nelson and psychiatrist Hasse Ekman.

5) The Rose Period

Pessimism about the state of the world, the human condition and God's indifference had characterised Bergman's angry young man phase. However, a romance with journalist Gun Grut put him in a more positive frame of mind for To Joy, even though tragedy taints the relationship between Helsingborg violinists Stig Olin and Maj-Britt Nilsson after he is told by actor's wife Margit Carlquist that domestic happiness is a hindrance to artistic fulfilment. Conflicted motives also inform This Can't Happen Here (1950), a forgotten Bergman spy thriller that follows secret agent Ulf Palme out of Liquidatzia in search of his estranged wife, Signe Hasso, who is helping to smuggle dissidents out of the country.

A still from Summer Interlude (1951)
A still from Summer Interlude (1951)

Bergman wished he'd never made this film and did all he could to bury it. But it gave him chance to take stock and he would later claim that Summer Interlude (1951) was his first feature, as it allowed him to switch focus on to the emotional life of his characters. Moreover, it gave him the chance to put a personal imprint on the story of how Stockholm ballerina Maj-Britt Nilsson recovers from the loss of lover Birger Malmsten to find happiness with devoted journalist Alf Kjellin. Released the same year as Vittorio De Sica's Miracle in Milan, it also helped launch a vogue for what we now call 'arthouse' cinema, as well as the academic study of the subject.

Even more pivotal to making foreign film seem chic was Summer With Monika (1952), whose bold approach to nudity and sexual freedom caused a minor sensation in the stuffily conservative postwar world. At its heart were Harriet Andersson and Lars Ekborg, the teenage lovers whose idyllic holiday romance comes to an abrupt end when they discover she's pregnant and has no intention of allowing motherhood to clip her wings. Among those to be dazzled were two young critics at Cahiers du Cinéma in Paris, with Jean-Luc Godard declaring it one of the most beautiful films he had ever seen, while François Truffaut would later have Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) steal a poster of the film in The 400 Blows (1959).

Completing this 'rose period' was Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), the most popular of Bergman's occasional ventures into comedy. Sparking the revels is white witch Naima Wifstrand, whose potion works wonders on actress Eva Dahlbeck and her unhappily married guests, Gunnar Björnstrand and Ulla Jacobsson and Margit Carlqvist and Jarl Kulle, as well as maid Harriet Andersson and groom Åke Fridell. Influenced by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (type that into the Cinema Paradiso searchline to discover over a dozen different interpretations) and Jean Renoir's La Règle du Jeu (1939), this fleet study of nature, identity and passion would impact upon Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982), among many others.

6) The Cinematography

Although Göran Strindberg had made a decent job of three of Bergman's early offerings, his films only started to acquire a consistent visual personality after he hooked up with Gunnar Fischer on Port of Call. However, the neo-realist look borrowed from Roberto Rossellini softened into something approaching 1930s French Poetic Realism as Bergman became more visually expressive. In all, Fischer would photograph 12 features, including all of the masterpieces of the 1950s. He continued working after Bergman moved on, with Jacques Tati's Parade (1974) being among his later credits, and lived to be 100.

Fischer bore no grudges at being replaced by Sven Nykvist on The Virgin Spring after he had been stranded in the Arctic filming a two-part Disneyland episode. Indeed, he had done well to hang on so long, as Bergman had been so impressed with Nykvist's interiors on Sawdust and Tinsel (1953) that he had tried to hire him full time. He would shoot 22 films for Bergman, as he made the transition from monochrome to colour. Yet, while he won Oscars for Cries and Whispers (1972) and Fanny and Alexander, the prolific Nykvist made around 100 other pictures over six decades, working notably with Louis Malle, Roman Polanski, Volker Schlöndorff and Woody Allen. He can also be seen in Arnold Glassman and Todd McCarthy's Visions of Light (1992), which remains the best documentary on the art and craft of cinematography.

7) Insights into Women

It's been suggested that Bergman would have struggled to operate in the #MeToo era. On set, he could be abrasively demanding with his performers, although he often took out his frustration on his continuity assistant of 30 years, Katinka Faragó. He also had affairs with several of his leading ladies and his nine children were born to six different women. Yet, as Jane Magnusson points out in her hard-hitting documentary, Bergman: A Year in a Life (2018), he also created some of the most striking female characters in screen history.

A still from Waiting Women (1952)
A still from Waiting Women (1952)

As a boy, Bergman had adored the mother who rebuffed him and the grandmother who cosseted him and he would use family photographs for his affectionate documentary short, Karin's Face (1976). These relationships would shape his opinion that women were better performers, as they were more truthful and nuanced than their male counterparts (although they were often based on Bergman's own senses of confusion, guilt and anxiety). Compare the male and female roles in Waiting Women, which revolves around the stories told by a trio of sisters-in-law as they wait for their husbands.

The first sees Eugen (Karl Arne Holmsten) being counselled by brother Paul (Håken Westergren) that he should turn a blind eye to wife Rakel (Anita Björk) flirting with Kaj (Jarl Kulle), as it's better to be a cuckold than lonely. The second centres on Marta (Maj-Britt Nilsson) meeting third brother Martin (Birger Malmsten) in Paris when he was rebelling against his family by striving to become an artist. But the highlight is the vignette that traps alienated spouses Karin (Eva Dahlbeck) and Fredrik (Gunnar Björnstrand) in a lift for a brief moment of rekindled passion that bears out the final moral that youth should be relished because one spends an entire lifetime pining for it.

Living with regret is also a key theme in So Close to Life (1958), which Bergman hadn't wanted to make and wound up winning him the Best Director prize at Cannes. Set in a Stockholm maternity ward, the action centres on Cecilia (Ingrid Thulin), Stina (Eva Dahlbeck) and Hjördis (Bibi Andersson), who are awaiting treatment. The first two are respectively married to Anders (Erland Josephson) and Harry (Max von Sydow) and their problems contrast with Hjördis's indifference to motherhood.

Erland Josephson joined forces with Bergman to script All These Women (1964), his first colour feature and a parody of Federico Fellini's (1963) that follows music critic Cornelius (Jarl Kulle) to Italy in the hope of writing a famous cellist's biography. We only catch glimpses of the man himself, as Bergman muses on creative genius and the parasitical nature of criticism. However, he also exorcises his own guilty conscience, as he reflects on how the elusive Felix has used his talent to seduce a trio of mistresses - Traviata (Gertrud Fridh), Isolde (Harriet Andersson) and Bumble Bee (Bibi Andersson) - who are all known to the maestro's long-suffering wife, Adelaide (Eva Dahlbeck).

8) The Anderssons

A still from Summer with Monika (1952)
A still from Summer with Monika (1952)

Contrary to popular conception, Bergman did not discover Harriet Anderson in a lift. They did have a brief fling around the time they made Summer With Monika and she became part of his company at the Malmö Municipal Theatre in the mid-1950s. Bergman claimed the camera captured Andersson's aura, but she joked that he struggled to find worthwhile roles for her during their eight-film collaboration and resorted to killing her off after Through a Glass Darkly. Away from the Bergmaniverse, Harriet won the Best Actress prize at Venice for Jörn Donner's To Love (1964) and Cinema Paradiso users can catch her in Sidney Lumet's The Deadly Affair (1966) and Lars von Trier's Dogville (2003).

Bergman first met 15 year-old Bibi Andersson when she played a princess in a soap commercial. She went on to star in 10 of his features, as well as three teleplays, although she often felt as though she lost out on the roles she most wanted to her either namesake or Liv Ullmann. Their partnership in Persona (1966) remains among the most iconic in Bergman's canon (see below). But Andersson also shared the Best Actress prize at Cannes with her co-stars in So Close to Life and won the same award at Berlin for Vilgot Sjöman's The Mistress (1963). Away from Bergman, Andersson graced such Hollywood pictures as Ralph Nelson's Duel At Diablo (1966) and John Huston's The Kremlin Letter (1970) before making a comeback appearances in films as different as Babette's Feast and Peter Flinth's Arn: Knight Templar (2007).

9) The ABBA Connection

Bergman described Persona as 'a sonata for two instruments'. He had written it while recuperating in hospital and had drawn on Strindberg's play, The Stronger, as the basis for the relationship between Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann), an actress who falls mute during a performance of Electra, and Alma (Bibi Andersson), the nurse who cares for her during a convalescent stay by the sea. Initially content to do her duty, Alma takes advantage of the silence to confide her hopes and fears to the seemingly disinterested Elisabet. However, Alma's deeply hurt when she discovers that her patient has betrayed her confidences in a letter to a friend and the pair have a violent showdown before returning to their normal lives.

As Alma reveals and Elisabet conceals, Bergman shows the women gazing into the same mirror before their faces later merge into one of the most famous cine-images he ever created. As Andersson and Ullmann bore a resemblance, the composite had a striking visual and psychological effect and numerous films have borrowed the 'persona swap' idea, including Rainer Werner Fassbinder's The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972), Barbet Schroeder's Single White Female (1992), Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan (2010) and Peter Strickland's The Duke of Burgundy (2014).

Moreover, Lasse Hallström adapted his compatriot's use of face-on and profile shots for several ABBA videos, most notably 'Mamma Mia' (1975), 'Knowing Me, Knowing You', 'The Name of the Game' (both 1977), 'Take a Chance on Me' (1978), 'The Winner Takes It All' (1981) and 'One of Us' (1982). These promos can be enjoyed on various discs available to rent from Cinema Paradiso, along with Hallström's ABBA: The Movie (1977), which followed Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Frida to Australia.

10) Hints of Horror

Dread pervades a number of Bergman films, although none necessarily belong in the horror genre. His fears were rooted in his childhood, although some of his stories should be taken with a pinch of salt, as he was a notorious fabulist. While his father was serving at the Royal Hospital, Bergman claimed he used to watch the orderlies burning body parts in the boiler room, while he retained the memory of being locked in a cupboard that was inhabited by a small monster with sharp teeth that devoured the feet of naughty children. Most terrifyingly, he came under the influence of Nazism during a school exchange visit to Germany and briefly believed that Adolf Hitler could save Europe during the Depression.

A still from Sawdust and Tinsel (1953)
A still from Sawdust and Tinsel (1953)

During the same sojourn, Bergman came into contact with the brooding Teutonic cinema that Cinema Paradiso has covered in its article on 100 Years of German Expressionism. Nordic directors like Sjöström, Stiller and Carl Theodor Dreyer had played a key role in bringing looming shadows, sinister settings and anguished perspectives to the screen and Bergman employed them to explore his lifelong fear of public humiliation in Sawdust and Tinsel (1953). On returning to his home town, circus owner Albert (Åke Grönberg) is shamed in front of his wife Alma (Annika Tretow) and their sons when he is beaten for trying to whip Frans (Hasse Ekman), the arrogant actor seeking to seduce his horseback rider lover, Anne (Harriet Andersson). But Albert is not alone in his disgrace, as Frost the clown (Anders Ek) has to carry wife Alma (Gudrun Brost) home after she is tricked into swimming naked by some hectoring soldiers.

Bergman appropriated religious iconography to make Albert and Frost's ordeals feel all the more degrading, while the thudding of drums and cannons on the soundtrack reinforces the sense of being trapped inside a nightmare. Echoes abound from E.A. Dupont's silent classic, Varieté (1925) and Bergman's film was a clear influence on Woody Allen's monochrome homage to Expressionist cinema, Shadows and Fog (1992). But contemporary reviews were overwhelmingly negative and Bergman was crushed by their savagery. Nevertheless, he returned to the same themes in The Magician (1958), which is set in the 1840s and is notable for its theatricality and vengeful disdain for critics.

Small-town councillor Egerman (Erland Josephson) doubts the claims that mesmerist Albert Emmanuel Vogler (Max von Sydow) can commune with the supernatural world and subjects him to an interrogation by sceptical Dr Vergérus (Gunnar Björnstrand). Egerman's wife, Ottilia (Gertrud Fridh), is smitten by Vogler, however, and tries to lure him to her room, while Vergérus makes a play for the showman's wife, Manda (Ingrid Thulin). A love potion causes more chaos, as Simson the coachman (Lars Ekborg) tilts his cap at Sara the maid (Bibi Andersson). But, despite being shown up, Egerman and Vergérus remain determined to expose Vogler as a charlatan.

Critics were also the target of The Rite (1969), in which Judge Abrahamsson (Erik Hell) tries cabaret artists Hans (Gunnar Björnstrand), Thea (Ingrid Thulin) and Sebastian (Anders Ek) for mounting an obscene show. The hypocrisy of the establishment is exposed when Abrahamsson attempts to seduce Thea. But he gets his comeuppance during a chilling ceremony involving a wineskin and a dagger that reaffirms the link between paganism and religion that had fascinated Bergman since he made The Virgin Spring, which may be the closest he ever got to producing a genuine horror and proved a significant influence on Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left (1972).

11) Fårö

How different Bergman's life might have been had he made Through a Glass Darkly in the Orkneys. Instead, he was persuaded to venture out to Fårö, the 113 km-square Baltic island with a population of just 700, whose limestone rocks would become a familiar sight in six features and two documentaries. Landscape had been vital to Bergman since shooting The Seventh Seal (1957) on the beach at Hovs Hallar in north-western Scania. However, he felt much more at home on Fårö after he returned to shoot Persona and settled for building a house after a proposal to open a studio was shelved.

A still from The Passion of Anna (1969)
A still from The Passion of Anna (1969)

In addition to the unofficial trilogy of Hour of the Wolf, Shame (both 1968) and The Passion of Anna (1969; see below), Bergman also made two documentaries on the island, Fårö Document (1970) and Fårö Document 1979 (1979), the first of which he made after plans fell through to collaborate with Federico Fellini on Love Duet fell through. Having closed his Stockholm office in 2003, Bergman spent his last four years on Fårö and its influence on his work is examined in Marie Nyreröd's Bergman Island (2004) and Jane Magnusson and Hynek Pallas's Trespassing Bergman (2013).

A couple of scenes were filmed in Bergman's video archive. He also had a private cinema and watched three pictures a day. In 1994, he chose his personal favourites for the Göteborg Film Festival and Cinema Paradiso users can have their own BergFest by renting Sjöström's The Phantom Carriage, Charles Chaplin's The Circus, Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (both 1928), Marcel Carné's Le Quai des brumes (1938), Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (both 1950), Fellini's La strada (1954) and Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev (1966). Who do we see about releasing Bo Wilderberg's Raven's End (1963), Andrzej Wajda's The Conductor (1980) and Margarethe von Trotta's The German Sisters (1981).

A still from Andrei Rublev (1966) With Ivan Lapikov And Anatoliy Solonitsyn
A still from Andrei Rublev (1966) With Ivan Lapikov And Anatoliy Solonitsyn
Uncover landmark films on demand
Browse our collection at Cinema Paradiso
Subscription starts from £15.99 a month.