Ernst Ingmar Bergman[a] (14 July 1918 – 30 July 2007) was a Swedish director, writer, and producer who worked in film, television, theatre and radio. Considered to be among the most accomplished and influential filmmakers of all time, Bergman’s films include The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957), Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1972), Scenes from a Marriage (1973), Autumn Sonata (1978) and Fanny and Alexander (1982); the last two exist in extended television versions.
Bergman directed over sixty films and documentaries for cinematic release and for television screenings, most of which he also wrote. He also directed over 170 plays. He eventually forged a creative partnership with his cinematographers Gunnar Fischer and Sven Nykvist. Among his company of actors were Harriet and Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Gunnar Björnstrand, Erland Josephson, Ingrid Thulin and Max von Sydow. Most of his films were set in Sweden, and many films from Through a Glass Darkly (1961) onward were filmed on the island of Fårö.
Philip French referred to Bergman as “one of the greatest artists of the 20th century … he found in literature and the performing arts a way of both recreating and questioning the human condition.” Director Martin Scorsese commented; “If you were alive in the 50s and the 60s and of a certain age, a teenager on your way to becoming an adult, and you wanted to make movies, I don’t see how you couldn’t be influenced by Bergman ….It’s impossible to overestimate the effect that those films had on people.”
Bergman’s films usually deal with existential questions of mortality, loneliness, and religious faith. In addition to these cerebral topics, however, sexual desire features in the foreground of most of his films, whether the central event is medieval plague (The Seventh Seal), upper-class family activity in early twentieth century Uppsala (Fanny and Alexander), or contemporary alienation (The Silence). His female characters are usually more in touch with their sexuality than their male equivalents, and unafraid to proclaim it, sometimes with breathtaking overtness (as in Cries and Whispers) as would define the work of “the conjurer,” as Bergman called himself in a 1960 TIME cover story. In an interview with Playboy in 1964, he said: “The manifestation of sex is very important, and particularly to me, for above all, I don’t want to make merely intellectual films. I want audiences to feel, to sense my films. This to me is much more important than their understanding them.” Film, Bergman said, was his demanding mistress.