Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

In the summer of 2003, documentary filmmaker Marie Nyreröd interviewed Ingmar Bergman in his home on the island of Fårö, in the process of making three one-hour documentaries about his life and work that aired on Swedish television the following year. At the same time, she recorded several short conversations with him, staged in his […]

It is very often the case that film directors are terrible judges of their own art, both qualitatively (was this good or bad?) and descriptively (why does this work the way it does?). Not so with Ingmar Bergman. Almost without exception, when he said that one of his films was bad, it was bad, and […]

There’s an inherent interest in watching a well-known director’s most unexpected, out-of-character work; what will this artist do with his skills when forced as far as possible outside of his comfort zone? And in the case of Ingmar Bergman, I think it’s more or less objectively true that the farthest he ever went afield from […]

Calling 1969’s The Passion of Anna by that name is already doing too much work in tidying up a film that’s almost perversely happy at how messy it is. Certainly, it is the messiest film directed by Ingmar Bergman, a director much more driven to crisp, clean, focused (to some of his critics, focused to […]

I am quite sure that I would never have supposed that a filmmaker working in the 1960s would leap to television because of the freedoms it offered. And I have no idea if that’s what actually took place with The Rite, director Ingmar Bergman’s sixth made-for-TV movie, and the first that wasn’t a staging of […]

According to a certain strand of criticism that has existed since the early 1960s, the biggest single shortcoming with Ingmar Bergman is that he is fundamentally apolitical. His international heyday exactly overlapped with a moment of heightened political activism around the world from artists of every medium, much of it oriented in opposition to the […]

1968’s Hour of the Wolf has perhaps the single least-enviable position of any title in Ingmar Bergman’s filmography: it’s the feature film he made next after Persona. Anything would seem like a step down in ambition and visionary madness compared to that movie, though Hour of the Wolf makes a good-faith effort to stand out […]

These days, when the 1967 Stimulantia comes up – something it is powerfully unlikely to ever do – it’s almost certainly in the context of being the one anthology film that Ingmar Bergman contributed a segment to, right in the heart of his international heyday in the 1960s (it nestles in his career during the […]

Between 1960 and 1963, Ingmar Bergman directed five feature films, and four of them were the most intensely depressing work of his career as it then stood. In particular, the one-two punch of 1963’s Winter Light and The Silence, a pair of films in which he dove headfirst into watching the degree to which human […]

The Silence is a film of negation. The first words spoken –  the first of not very many, at that – are a declaration of ignorance and meaninglessness. A boy of ten or eleven, Johan (Jörgen Lindström) points to a sign written in an unfamiliar language, asking, “Vad betyder det?” (What does that mean?). Off-camera […]

In 1963, Ingmar Bergman was hip deep in an attempt to translate the theatrical devices of August Strindberg’s chamber plays into a cinematic idiom, with Through a Glass Darkly and Winter Light already behind him, and The Silence right around the corner. In this middle of this unusually intense period of producing some of the […]

When I think upon Ingmar Bergman’s cinema, and what most perfectly embodies it, why he is one of my very favorite filmmakers of all time and what are the irreducible components of his style, what I always think of first is Winter Light from 1963. Specifically, I think of the shot of Ingrid Thulin’s face. […]