Ingmar Bergman Introduction

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Ingmar Bergman 1918–

Swedish director, and screenwriter.

Bergman's symbolic dramas deal with internal conflicts and metaphysical crises of human nature. Using a heavily symbolic style, he seeks to discover the mysteries of the universe, pondering matters as various as communication with God and the psychological makeup of women.

Bergman's strict Lutheran upbringing significantly influenced his works. He became fascinated with the external trappings of religion and the beliefs behind the rituals. This is intrinsic to Bergman's work, as is his belief that God is often silent.

At the University of Stockholm Bergman directed several student theatre productions, including some of his own works which already bore signs of his strong religious feelings. His early work for Svenskfilmindustri included editing and scriptwriting. He began his career as a director with Crisis, for which he also wrote the script. Several films brought Bergman popular acclaim in Sweden before he achieved international fame with Smiles of a Summer Night. Summer Interlude and The Naked Night, in particular, foreshadow his artistic skill. Though they differ greatly in content, one savagely bitter, the other poignantly romantic, his structural concepts remain the same.

Smiles of a Summer Night shows Bergman's ability to create comedy and effectively portray the age-old theme of the many faces of love. His next film, The Seventh Seal, functioned on a theological level. Conveying a contemporary attitude of religious despair, this medieval allegory attempted to resolve some of Bergman's philosophical crises. It is the story of a lonely man's search for God and life's meaning.

Wild Strawberries, often referred to as Bergman's most serene work as well as one of his most successful, explores man's need for love. Isak Borg, the protagonist, is successful commercially, yet a failure emotionally. Like many characters in Bergman films, he is involved in a journey; one that will dramatically change his life. In this film, Bergman claims the route to salvation is through love and communication with others. It is Bergman's most positive view of salvation.

Bergman's trilogy, composed of Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence, deals with the personal experience of God in one's life. Human beings need both God and love, yet are unable to accept either. In all three films, the characters are pitifully incapable of reaching others. The trilogy commences optimistically and ends in the futile statement of The Silence: God is indeed silent. After the trilogy, Bergman turned to more personal and interpersonal studies, weaving through the...

(The entire section is 623 words.)