Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

The phrase which most irresistibly attaches itself to Rabies, a 1958 television play that is maybe the most obscure piece of filmed media Ingmar Bergman ever directed, is “an unpleasant piece”. Bergman himself first described it that way in 1945, in the notes to his production of the play onstage at the Helsingborg City Theatre; […]

Brink of Life is an overlooked film in Ingmar Bergman’s career, possibly because he later stepped away from it, but it feels to me like a crucial example of his developing career at the end of the 1950s. On top of being, in its own right, a terrific acting showcase, which by this point was […]

If you know Ingmar Bergman primarily as a director of motion pictures – and since you are reading this review in English rather than Swedish, that is almost certainly the case – you probably know him as the miserabilist creator of morbid, heavy character dramas, one after the other, fixated on dying marriages, death, and […]

1955’s Smiles of a Summer Night is a no-two-ways-about-it masterpiece, as far as I’m concerned, but it’s also a light bauble: tinged with melancholy and hard-won worldy wisdom, but still mostly a sex farce. 1957’s The Seventh Seal is similarly a no-two-ways-about-it masterpiece, but it’s also a strange pageant-like work of dense symbolism, unafraid to […]

I literally cannot imagine a world where The Seventh Seal didn’t exist. It is, without a trace of hyperbole, one of the works that defines its medium. That there is a thing called “the art film”; that we can, without embarrassment, treat cinema as something that serious intellectuals can and should grapple with; that there […]

In the wake of Smiles of a Summer Night, a major international hit that had been dismissed by Swedish critics (thereby setting up a pattern that would persist for the rest of his career; my instinct is to accuse the Swedish critics of snobbery), Ingmar Bergman took a year to regroup. In the ten years […]

Ingmar Bergman once suggested, I do not know how seriously, that his choice in the early summer of 1955 was between two things: making a lightweight comedy for Svensk Filmindustri, or killing himself. Now, I shouldn’t think that his professional situation was as bad as all that – his position with Malmö City Theatre was […]

Let us start by making an important distinction: the title of Ingmar Bergman’s first feature from 1955 might be generally given in English as Dreams, but the Swedish title Kvinnodröm more literally translates to “Women’s dreams”. And this is, after a fashion, what the film presents: a pair of women hoping for more than they’re […]

The first half of the 1950s was the most troubled time in Ingmar Bergman’s entire career, business-wise if not artistically, and things bottomed out in 1953. This was when Sawdust and Tinsel released, and became the first unmitigated disaster of his career: resoundingly rejected by audiences and treated coldly by critics (that it was his […]

I will begin by confessing that I don’t entirely know how to suss out the parentage of Eva, a 1948 Swedish drama. The credits declare that the scenario is by director Gustaf Molander, while the script was written by Ingmar Bergman, and unless the word “scenario” means literally the exact opposite in the Swedish film […]

The name of the game is “let’s look at all of Ingmar Bergman’s early screenplays”, and the Swedish critics of 1947 were certainly willing to play that game just as much as I am over 70 years later: Woman Without a Face, the fourth film with a Bergman script (beating A Ship to India to […]

Insofar as the 1944 Swedish film Torment is much remembered or discussed at all, it’s because the script was written by a 24-year-old named Ingmar Bergman, who was very eagerly in those days trying to kick-start a career in cinema, or theater, or both. He was successful in these goals. And this film is a […]