Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

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 […]

1953’s Summer with Monika, Ingmar Bergman’s twelfth feature film as director, was also the film with which he first found major international success, though that success had very little to do with critical recognition of his talent. Rather, it’s because Summer with Monika had what was, at the time, a groundbreaking depiction of nudity, and […]

By the time Ingmar Bergman directed Waiting Women, released in the autumn of 1952, it had been almost two years since he’d made a movie. I don’t want to go all the way as far saying “and you can tell”, because there are ample strengths here. But there’s also a bit of stiffness in the […]

The early part of 1951 was a dire period for Ingmar Bergman, certainly the most professionally uncertain period of his life prior to his tussle with the Swedish government over taxes in the 1970s, and the self-imposed exile from his home country that followed. And even then, he was Ingmar Bergman, International Treasure, and well […]

Summer Interlude was the first film directed by Ingmar Bergman that he was entirely happy to have made. That’s enough to grab my attention, at least, and while there’s no reason we have to agree with him (filmmakers have been getting their own films wrong since the beginning), it’s still worth pondering what about the […]