Bergman Vol 4 – Review
By Sarah Morgan
“Would you like to review six discs of Ingmar Bergman productions?” they asked. I tentatively replied, “Yes.”
Having seen much from the start of his career (a bit hit-and-miss, and rather samey in terms of subject matter and tone) as well as classics such as The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries (both excellent), I was slightly concerned about what I might find, particularly as the fourth volume of the BFI’s Bergman collection features projects from the end of the career, a period when many auteurs can be, for want of a better phrase, going off the boil a bit.
And, of course, Bergman has a reputation for being rather highbrow – even my dad asked, “did you understand them?” when I mentioned the boxset was on my ‘to-watch’ list. I think I’m slightly offended by the suggestion I might not…
Anyway, I’m pleased to say I did grasp them. In truth, there’s nothing to be afraid of here, other than the running times of some of the entries – especially the TV series version of Fanny and Alexander, which is daunting, but still doable. I’d suggest, however, that it’s perfectly acceptable to only watch the cut-down film adaptation, which contains all the crucial elements in this enthralling and rightly lauded saga about a family in the first 10 years of the 20th century.
The other standout film in the release is 1978’s Autumn Sonata, which marked the final big-screen appearance of Ingrid Bergman (a namesake but not a relative of the director), in an Oscar-nominated role as a mother who has kept her two daughters at arm’s length while relentlessly pursuing her career as a concert pianist. Liv Ullman is just as impressive as her eldest offspring, who uses a rare meeting between the two to air her grievances.
I could live without seeing Scenes from a Marriage ever again (Ullman stars here too), which is the rather overlong dissection of the union between two once happily wed people. The follow-up, From the Life of the Marionettes, is far better, perhaps because it has a more dynamic plot, following a man with a murderous urge.
Also included in the set is Cries and Whispers (top image), a period piece about a group of sisters brought together by one of their number’s terminal illness; Faro Document, a documentary about the island of Faro (where Bergman shot several of his films) and, last but by no means least, After the Rehearsal, a TV movie focusing on the relationship between an exacting theatre director and his young star.
Each production is intriguing in its own way, but I suspect the set as whole will appeal only to existing fans of Bergman’s work. To attract newcomers, we’d probably need a ‘greatest hits’ boxset featuring a selection of key works from across his acclaimed career.
‘Bergman Vol 4’ is released by the BFI, £54.99