BTXXX 1958: The Magician

The Magician (Ansiktet). Ingmar Bergman. 1958. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐★.

We’ve now reached the point where a Bergman film can be immediately identified by just looking at any random frame from his movies, so I guess we’ve gone past the “early” bit of his career.

It’s all so programmatically present in this one: All the characters being metaphors for Bergman’s own life (Bergman’s both the tortured artiste Vogler and the huckster selling the artistiness here, I think?); the religious affectations; the stylised repartee…

I mean, it’s brilliant, but…

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTXXIX 1958: Brink of Life

Brink of Life (Nära livet). Ingmar Bergman. 1958. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐.

At a time when very few men had ever been present at an actual birth, Brink of Life came as a shock for many viewers. The newspapers reported people fainting (the record being set in Bergen in Norway, where eight people passed out during the same screening!).

This was a very controversial film, because it deals with women giving birth.

It’s not produced by Bergman’s usual technical staff (even if it features his usual cast of actors (is this the first one where Erland Josephson appears?)), and it’s really grainy and scratchy.

The obvious comparison is to the much later Cries & Whispers film: Much anguish in and around sick beds. I’ve never seen this film before, but if I remember Cries & Whispers right, it’s stylistically a very different film.

Isn’t that perceptive commentary?

Eh, whatchagonnado.

Anyway, this is pretty brilliant. It’s a bundle of emotions, but it’s also funny (especially the Eva Dahlbeck parts (and I love that Max von Sydow plays her dotty husband)). The actors are all wonderful and play extremely well off each other.

It won all the awards at Cannes that year.

And it’s one of those extremely rare films that fails the reverse Bechdel test, which is always refreshing.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTXXVIII 1958: The Venetian Woman

The Venetian Woman (Venetianskan). Ingmar Bergman. 1958. ⭐⭐⭐★★★.

Bergman was so productive these years that establishing a chronology isn’t trivial. But this TV production seems to have been released before his next feature film, but I have no idea which one was made first.


Anyway, it’s Bergman’s second TV production. It was apparently shown live on Swedish television? Some of the scene changes would seem to require pauses… Or perhaps it wasn’t live. But it’s a play shot with multiple cameras.

Very few of Bergman’s regular crew appears here (as opposed to in Mr. Sleeman Calls). I think the only one is Gunnel Lindblom?

Anyway anyway, this is an Italian bawdy 16th century farce, and it’s quite fun. Very convoluted plot, as you’d expect.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTXXVII 1957: Mr. Sleeman is Coming

Mr. Sleeman is Coming (Herr Sleeman kommer). Ingmar Bergman. 1957. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐★.

This is Bergman’s first TV movie. It doesn’t seem to have gotten an official release, so I had to get it from teh torrenz.

It’s a play filmed for TV (with multiple cameras, I think). Bergman’s usual cohort of actors (Bibi Andersson, Max von Sydow, etc) show up, and it’s all rather fascinating.

The actors are great and I like the staging, but it’s a bit difficult to get around the central conceit of the film: A girl who’s convinced that she has to marry some aged gentleman (for reasons that are never really explained). Why doesn’t she just run away with young strapping von Sydow?

So it’s a bit difficult to get into it when your left eyebrow is constantly raised.

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.

BTXXVI 1957: Nattens ljus

Nattens ljus. Lars-Eric Kjellgren. 1957. ⭐⭐★★★★.

I got this one from the Bergman Pirate. It’s not officially a Bergman film: He worked on the script, but is uncredited.

Is this the only non-Bergman-directed film I’ve seen Gunnar Björnstrand in? And… he’s not as good here as I had come to expect.

The entire film is a mess. It’s choppy and oddly constructed, and most of the actors seem to have gotten instruction like “BE LESS NATURAL! LESS! NATURAL!”

Which can work, but it doesn’t here. But there are some fun things in here, like the film-in-the-film (that’s in colour) and has a Bergman parody directing it (wearing a white beret).

This post is part of the 87 Bergman Things series.