October 24, 2013

'Bergman's Dreams': How Director Ingmar Bergman Visually Represented the Subconscious in His Films

Ingmar Bergman CriterionWe've talked a lot about influential filmmakers from the past and present, but haven't really talked much about one of this writer's favorite directors: Ingmar Bergman. Few filmmakers have been able to put together such an impressive body of work, and keep doing it well into their later years. Not every film was a masterpiece (far from it), but every single one had a piece of the filmmaker deeply ingrained in it. That idea is explored in the Criterion Collection video essay embedded below:

While I am a bit biased, I think Bergman had a remarkable ability to give us a window into the human soul. It's difficult to visualize and express the subconscious, but films like Persona and Hour of the Wolf manage to do just that. While the The Seventh Seal is always the go-to Bergman film for anyone new to the director, I actually think many of his lesser known films have more to offer in terms challenging subject matter. If you haven't experienced any of them at this point, here is a fair warning: most of his films are very slow (certainly compared to today's movies). While that's the case for many older films, I think the payoff is worth it, especially for the two films I mentioned above.

Many of his films are available from the Criterion Collection, but you can also find some of them on Hulu and Amazon.

What do you think of Bergman? Do you agree with the praise, or do you think he is overrated?

Link: Ingmar Bergman -- Criterion Collection

Your Comment

27 Comments

Bergman's influence on the modern cinema is arguably tertiary. In other words, he didn't influence the film going public as much as other filmmakers, who then interpreted Bergman via their own art. The list of his disciples is quite long, of course - from Woody Allen to Andrey Tarkovsky to Federico Fellini to Ken Russell to Bernardo Bertolucci, et al.

October 24, 2013 at 2:58AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

I don't know what your point is exactly, but I would say if your point is that his films where more for filmmakers or were not powerful to effect the mainstream public I think that is ridiculous. The fact that his work had such dramatic effect on many current filmmakers shows the power and importance of the work....maybe they are difficult films and they are "art films" w/e that means but that is completely beside the point.

nice word of the day use there though.

October 24, 2013 at 12:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jon Apple

That's not his point at all, and DLD's comment is far from ridiculous - in fact, he hit the nail on the head. The point is not that the impact of Bergman's films was LIMITED to other filmmakers (Francis Ford Coppola is another important one that DLD didn't mention), but that this is where his greatest influence is to be found. This notion is not diminutive of his films' impact on the general public, but the fact is that Bergman's films did not have the broad audiences that typical blockbusters of his day had, and as such his impact was limited to a smaller, more discerning audience - where a lot of aspiring filmmakers were to be found.

October 24, 2013 at 12:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

OF COURSE! they are art films! (w/e thats means) . my point is just that it's not that important of a point. Lets talk about the films themselves!

October 24, 2013 at 5:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jon Apple

Your assertion was based on your misinterpretation of DLD's comment, which you called "ridiculous."
And how can you say that it's "not that important of a point" when in your first response you said "I don't know what your point is exactly"? You are ridiculing something you admittedly don't understand.

October 25, 2013 at 3:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

DOOD. I get it. his films effected other filmmakers more then the mainstream movie goers. I said that. I understand what "tertiary" means. relax.

October 25, 2013 at 4:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jon Apple

There are a few (or a lot of ) similar stories with musicians and comedians. They may not sell concert halls or get network sitcoms but people on the inside appreciate their craft. Lenny Bruce may have been the most revolutionary stand-up comic of his era but the audiences found him too obsessive. Still, he paved the way for Carlin, Prior, Cosby and Klein. In music, Rory Gallagher, Adrian Bellew and Robert Fripp are held in high esteem for their guitar work but they have sold far fewer albums than Blackmore, Gimore or Page.

October 25, 2013 at 5:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

We all get the concept! this is so redundant why is there even an argument.

"the comics comic" the "filmmakers filmmaker" the "writers writer" old news guys.

October 26, 2013 at 12:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Stalin

Afters seeing most of Bergman's films on Pot, his films inspired me to abandoned my career in the games industry to write to shift to the film industry, still dont know where im going with it. I loves his films so much that every time I see a Godard movie I feel like shooting myself.

October 24, 2013 at 4:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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george

Bergman is one of my all time favorite directors. I love Hour of the Wolf and Through a Glass Darkly, I would say they speak to me the most of what I have seen. Persona didn't move me as much, even though I find it often mentioned. His films are beautifully shot and speak from a deeper place than most film directors can reach, this isn't an insult to most film directors, it's high praise to Bergman.

October 24, 2013 at 7:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Through a Glass Darkly is pretty amazing as well, that's one of the few films of his I've seen many, many times.

October 24, 2013 at 12:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

Through a glass darkly and person are both to me masterpieces. There is actually no Ingmar Bergman film that bores me. Not one of them!

November 5, 2013 at 5:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I think he's simply one of the 10 most important filmmakers ever.

October 24, 2013 at 8:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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October 24, 2013 at 11:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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sbsk

He's a filmmaker and more. A first rate artist.

Over the years I've seen quite a few of his films, but had never seen "Scenes from a Marriage" until this summer. It's so wise and beautiful.

October 24, 2013 at 11:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tom

Fanny & Alexander, Wild Strawberries and Cries and Whispers are my favourites. It still amazes me that Persona manages to cover so much emotional distance in only 83 mins. There are more than a couple of his films that I really don't care for at all... Autumn Sonata being the chief culprit.
Has anyone seen any of his very early work? I hear that the first 5 or so films are different to his later style but still accomplished. I know a Blu-ray was released but I'm reluctant to take the plunge.

October 24, 2013 at 1:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Mak

I couldn't agree more. Fanny and Alexander is near the top of my list when I need a great film that reminds me of what is not just beautiful about cinema, but why it's important. Same goes for Wild Strawberries. His DP, Sven Nyqvist, is one of my favorites (and was Jeff Cronenweth's mentor).

October 25, 2013 at 2:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Stephen S.

Good post. On the GH2 there is a 'nostalgic' mode that gives footage a dream like quality which is evocative of Bergman's style.

October 24, 2013 at 2:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Norm Rasner

BTW, it should be probably be "unconscious" rather than "subconscious" in the title of the article.

October 24, 2013 at 4:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

They both work, but I refuse to use unconscious as a noun.

October 25, 2013 at 2:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

The dream sequences are definitely of the "unconscious" variety.
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BTW, David Chase had great dream sequences during the Sopranos heyday. The story arc with Tony becoming a traveling salesperson while in a coma is still subject to many an interpretation.

October 25, 2013 at 3:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

Taking a stand!

I like it.

October 25, 2013 at 6:26AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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great director!

October 24, 2013 at 4:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DIO

what is the first film?

October 24, 2013 at 6:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Felipe

Virgin Spring -- another fabulous study by Bergman of the power of the unconscious when not brought into conscious awareness...

October 25, 2013 at 12:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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thanks

October 25, 2013 at 1:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Felipe

I've been watching Bergman for the past year starting with his first films. It's been a struggle, as his early works are heavy on melodrama, and in general Bergman leans towards theater heavily in the performances, pacing and composition. It's only when he abandons theater and explores the potential of film (particularly once he teamed up with Nykvist... Sawdust, then Virgin Springs onward), that hints of his genius start to manifest. I liked Wild Strawberries but found the ending incongruent and the performance by Thulin irritating. Still, that dream sequence in the beginning should be studied by anyone serious about making films. Seventh Seal is likewise seriously flawed and way too brainy. Bergman is at his best when he turns off his head and lets emotion seep out, which it seems reading his autobiographies was not easy for him. For his early works, I'd say his go-to films would be Sawdust and Tinsel, Strawberries, Seventh Seal, Magician and Virgin Springs.

October 26, 2013 at 10:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Evan