Last month would have been Ingmar Bergman’s 100th birthday. In observance of the filmmaker’s centenary, the Brattle Theatre, Coolidge Corner Theatre, and Harvard Film Archive are embarking on an ambitious collaboration. They will be screening a total of 28 Bergman films between Aug. 31 and Oct. 14.
Highlights include the television versions of “Scenes From a Marriage” and “Fanny and Alexander,” each with more than two additional hours than the theatrical release; a Sept. 16 screening of “Autumn Sonata” at the Coolidge, with costar Liv Ullmann in attendance; and a Sept. 26 screening of “Wild Strawberries” at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.
Wait, wouldn’t “The Seventh Seal” be a better choice for that location? Maybe yes, maybe no: Death is to the Bergman filmography what dazzle is to Orson Welles’s or destruction to Michael Bay’s. It looms large, but doesn’t define the body of work.
No, the richness of Bergman’s achievement extends to the grave sweetness of “Smiles of a Summer Night,” his adaptation of “The Magic Flute,” and “Fanny and Alexander.” As with any great artist, pigeonholing Bergman is done at the pigeonholer’s peril. It’s as impossible as winning a chess match with Death.
Here is a list of films in the series, given in order of screening. Following each title are a brief comment from Bergman, dates of screening, and venues. Comments are drawn from journalism interviews, the interviews in “Bergman on Bergman” (1969), and his books “The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography” (1987) and “Images: My Life in Film” (1990).
Persona, 1966: “Today I feel that in ‘Persona’ — and later in ‘Cries and Whispers’ — I had gone as far I could go. And that in these two instances, when working in total freedom, I touched wordless secrets that only the cinema can discover.” “Images.” Aug. 31-Sept. 4, Brattle; Sept. 21, HFA
Smiles of a Summer Night, 1955: “I felt it would be a technical challenge to make a comedy with a mathematical pattern — man-woman, woman-man. Four couples. And then muddle them all up, and sort out the equation.” “Bergman on Bergman.” Sept. 5, Coolidge; Oct. 11, Brattle
The Magician, 1958: “I had often felt that I was involved in a continuous, rather joyous prostitution. My job was to beguile the audience. It was show business from morning till night. It was good fun, no question about it. But underneath it all prevailed a violent yearning, which I let [the character] Spegel express.” “Images.” Sept. 7, HFA
Summer With Monika, 1953: “I was at once overcome with euphoric light-heartedness. Professional, financial and marital problems fell away over the horizon. The film crew lived a relatively comfortable outdoor life, working days, evenings, dawns and in all weathers. The nights were short, sleep dreamless.” “The Magic Lantern.” Sept. 7, HFA; Oct 7, Brattle
Hour of the Wolf, 1968: “The demons would come to me and wake me up, and they would stand there and talk to me.” Life, 1971. Sept. 8, HFA
Shame, 1968: “[It] originates in a panicky question: How would I have behaved during the Nazi period if Sweden had been occupied and if I’d held some position of responsibility or been connected with some institution? Or had even found myself threatened as a private person?” “Bergman on Bergman.” Sept. 8, HFA
Sawdust and Tinsel, 1953: “I thought I’d made a good film, a vital film. I was perfectly well aware where the film had its thematic and stylistic roots: in [E.A.] Dupont’s old film ‘Variety’ with Emil Jannings, which I’ve treasured for many years . . . . ‘Sawdust and Tinsel’ was intended as a conscious reply.” “Bergman on Bergman.” Sept. 9, HFA; Oct. 7, Brattle
Through a Glass Darkly, 1961: “I felt I had to drop all artistic tricks and simply concentrate on the human drama. And that was how this play came into being — for a play it is. It’s a surreptitious stage-play, you can’t get away from that, with orderly scenes, set side by side. The cinematic aspects . . . are rather secondary.” “Bergman on Bergman.” Sept. 12, Coolidge; Sept. 22 and Oct. 6, HFA
The Magic Flute, 1975: “Never has a production unfolded with so few hindrances. The solutions lined up and announced themselves one by one. In no case was there even a shadow of forced efforts, nor did any idea arise merely to give me a chance to prove my cleverness as a director. It was a highly creative time, carried along, day and night, by Mozart’s music.” “Images.” Sept. 15, HFA
The Devil’s Eye, 1960: “It’s not that I’m ashamed of having made it; it’s simply that it turned into a series of mistakes and misunderstandings. Otherwise, I think it does have a few good qualities. But it’s certainly one of my films I haven’t much feeling for.” “Bergman on Bergman.” Sept. 15, HFA
Autumn Sonata, 1978: “A French critic . . . said that ‘Monsieur Bergman has started to make Bergman films.’ He didn’t mean it as a compliment. On the contrary! However, I think he made a smart and incisive remark that really cut me to the quick, because I knew exactly what he meant. He was absolutely right. This is what a director must avoid at all cost.” Positif, 2002. Sept. 16, Coolidge; Oct. 5, HFA
The Virgin Spring, 1960: “A film which was one of my shadiest. . . . I admit it contains a couple of passages with immense acceleration and vitality, and it has some sort of cinematic appeal.” “Bergman on Bergman.” Sept. 16, HFA
Cries and Whispers, 1972: “All my films can be thought in black and white, except for ‘Cries and Whispers.’ In the screenplay, I say that I have thought of the color red as the interior of the soul. When I was a child I saw the soul as a shadowy dragon, blue as smoke, hovering like an enormous winged creature, half bird, half fish. But inside the dragon everything was red.” “Images.” Sept. 19, Coolidge; Oct. 7, HFA
All These Women, 1964: “They may like it in America: the theme song is ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas.’ It amuses me, anyway. I’ve already told one Swedish writer that I’m hoping it will start the Bergman Ballyhoo Era.” Playboy, 1964. Sept. 21, HFA
Scenes From a Marriage, 1973: “I wrote it just for fun and didn’t know what to do with it. It was like ‘Winnie the Pooh.’ You know, Christopher Robin was ill and, every evening before sleep, A.A. Milne told him one of those stories. Then he wrote them down and suddenly the whole world bought ‘Winnie the Pooh.’ It was the same with ‘Scenes From a Marriage.’ ” The New York Times Magazine, 1975. Sept. 23, HFA
Winter Light, 1963: “ . . . The woman, the strong one — she can see. She has her moment of awareness, but it won’t change their lives. They will have a terrible life. I wouldn’t make a film about what happens to them next for anything in the world. They’ll have to get along without me.” Playboy, 1964. Sept. 24 and Oct. 6, HFA
Wild Strawberries, 1957: “I made it as a rundown of my earlier life, a searching, a final test. As for the psychoanalytical aspect, I had no real grip on it. It’s other people who’ve stuck that on afterwards. For me the film is tangible, concrete.” “Bergman on Bergman.” Sept. 26, Mount Auburn Cemetery; Oct. 1, HFA
The Silence, 1963: “There is much in common between a beautiful summer morning and the sexual act; but I feel I’ve found the cinematic means of expressing only the first, and not the other, as yet.” Playboy, 1964. Sept. 29 and Oct. 7, HFA
The Passion of Anna, 1969: “[It] could have been a good film, had the traces of the 1960s not been so evident. They leave an imprint, not only because of the skirts and hairdos, but, even more essentially, because of the important formal elements: the interviews with the actors and the improvised dinner invitation.” “Images.” Sept. 29, HFA
Fanny and Alexander, 1982: “Making ‘Fanny and Alexander’ was such joy that I thought that feeling will never come back.” The New York Times, 1983. Sept. 30, HFA
Summer Interlude, 1951: “I am very fond of ‘Summer Interlude.’ It is my favorite movie. I don’t mean that it’s my best. I don’t know which movie is my best.” Esquire, 1960. Oct. 3, Brattle
Torment, 1944: “For a long time I had been employed as a scriptwriter by Svensk Filmindustri, and I had had one script filmed ([‘Torment’], directed by Alf Sjöberg). I was considered talented but difficult.” “The Magic Lantern.” Oct. 4, Brattle
The Seventh Seal, 1957: “The image of the Dance of Death beneath the dark cloud was achieved at hectic speed because most of the actors had finished for the day. Assistants, electricians, a make-up man and two summer visitors, who never knew what it was all about, had to dress up in the costumes of those condemned to death. A camera with no sound was set up and the picture shot before the cloud dissolved.” “The Magic Lantern.” Oct. 5-6, Brattle
Prison, 1949: “It was the first time I was ever allowed to make my own script from an idea of my own. The whole thing was my own from beginning to end.” “Bergman on Bergman.” Oct. 9, Brattle
Thirst, 1949: “I felt a lot for that film, because my own marital complications were rather analogous.” “Bergman on Bergman.” Oct. 9, Brattle
Dreams, 1955: “Sound has always been just as important as image.” “Bergman on Bergman.” Oct. 10, Brattle
Secrets of Women, 1952 “It went like hot cakes. It was one of the happiest experiences of my life, to hang about the foyer . . . and suddenly hear people inside howling with laughter. It was the first time in my life people had ever laughed at something I’d made — laughed like that.” “Bergman on Bergman.” Oct. 10, Brattle
From the Life of the Marionettes, 1980: “It was not liked, but belongs among my best films, an opinion shared by a few.” “The Magic Lantern.” Oct. 14, HFA
Mark Feeney can be reached at email@example.com.