Through Bergman's Past, Brightly

RT Staffers Select Their Favorite Works from the Great Director

With the passing of Ingmar Bergman Monday, the world of cinema lost one of its most unique and important voices. Thus, we at Rotten Tomatoes decided to pick our favorite Bergman films as a tribute to the man who contributed so much to the art of movies.

From dark allegory (The Seventh Seal) to light(er) comedy (Smiles of a Summer Night), from emotionally wrenching period drama (Sawdust and Tinsel, Cries and Whispers) to musical theater (The Magic Flute), Bergman contributed a depth of feeling and intelligence to the cinema seldom seen before. The great Swedish director confronted the mysteries of human existence head-on, and, in doing so, carved out a niche that casts a long shadow over the medium.

Bergman's work has influenced everything from The Break-Up to Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey; Wes Craven utilized The Virgin Spring as the basis for Last House on the Left, while Woody Allen and Robert Altman cited him as a key influence.

With a filmography as rich and potent as Bergman's, it's hard to know where to start. If you're a beginner to Bergman's oeuvre, here are some of our favorites.



Wild Strawberries

A lyrical and sometimes surreal film about a man in the twilight of his life, Wild Strawberries explores Bergman's recurrent themes of innocent children subjected to dishonorable elders. The old man in Wild Strawberries realizes too late that he's failed to create meaningful relationships with those near to him and remembers, with some dishonesty, his often painful past.



Fanny and Alexander

A broadly autobiographical film about Bergman's own upbringing, Fanny and Alexander was made for Swedish TV and re-edited from 300 minutes down to 168 for release in American theaters. Bergman's most popular film in the states, Fanny and Alexander deals again with Bergman's issues of innocence and knowledge and displays in, sometimes depraved ways, how children don't lose their innocence so much as have it stolen from them.

-- Sara Schieron



Winter Light

Best known as the middle entry of Bergman's "faith trilogy," Winter Light revolves around a pastor's crisis of faith after he's unable to console one of his congregation. It's an emotionally direct film -- no dream sequences, no parlor games with Death -- and Bergman skillfully draws tension from this simplicity. The film essentially ends the same way it begins, but everything that transpires in between gives the film's final moment a shot of existential horror Bergman is legendary for.

-- Alex Vo



Persona

A deeply unsettling, hypnotic work, Persona explores the fluidity of human existence. Liv Ullman plays Elizabeth, an actress who has suffered an onstage breakdown; she refuses to speak, and is cared for by Alma (Bibi Andersson). What follows is a disquieting journey into the depths of the soul; as Alma reveals her deepest secrets to Elizabeth, she finds herself in an emotional tug-of-war with her patient. Persona is Bergman at his most formally experimental, and his obsession with the poetry of the human face is at its apex in this mysterious, rewarding film.



Monika

One of Bergman's earliest films, Monika is about the fleeting nature and naiveté of youthful passions. A free-spirited teenager named Monika (Harriet Andersson) and her reserved boyfriend Harry (Lars Ekborg) spend an idyllic summer on a remote island -- before reality and responsibility set in. Monika may lack the existential probing and Big Questions of Bergman's later films, but as an examination of the messiness of teenage emotions, it has a delicate beauty all its own.

-- Tim Ryan

Comments

Nick Hershey

nick hershey

I must shamefully admit that I am mostly unfamiliar with Bergman's work. I think I'll familiarize myself by starting with Wild Strawberries.

Jul 31 - 12:09 AM

A Lapse In Reason

Nick Haskell

Start with 7th Seal

Jul 31 - 12:28 AM

Nick Hershey

nick hershey

OK, 7th Seal it is.

Jul 31 - 12:40 AM

Sinizine

Fake Name

Antonioni just died too. This week sucks.

Jul 31 - 04:42 AM

MadmanCody

Cody Keller

uh..yeah nick, maybe you should've watched great movies before

Jul 31 - 07:06 AM

IMAmoose24

Eric Schulze

Well Madman, I too am not familiar with his work, so he's not the only one.

Jul 31 - 08:29 AM

IMAmoose24

Eric Schulze

Well Madman, I too am not familiar with his work, so he's not the only one.

Jul 31 - 08:29 AM

bobtom

Hunter Linn

nor am I... but I am looking forward to seeing some of his films because I did already know of him, just havn't gone out of my way yet to see any of his films

Jul 31 - 12:46 PM

mercurie

Terry Canote

My favourite film will always be The Seventh Seal. The chess game with Death has to be one of the most iconic images in film of all time.

Jul 31 - 10:00 PM

Cinematic Bliss

Eric Deslauriers

I just watched The Virgin Spring - an incredible, under seen Bergman film I urge anyone who hasn't already seen it to see.

Aug 1 - 05:33 AM

Scissorarm

Jonathan Davidson

Through a Glass Darkly is also an amazing film. And if any of you have Netflix I urge you to get "Scenes From a Marriaige" make sure to get the series and not the movie version.

Aug 1 - 08:08 AM

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