SEARCHING FOR INGMAR BERGMAN (INGMAR BERGMAN-VERMACHTNIS EINES JAHRHUNDERTGENIES)
(directors: Margarethe von Trotta/Bettina Bohler/ Felix Moeller; screenwriter: Felix Moeller; cinematographer: Martin Farkas; editor: Bettina Bohler; cast: Liv Ullmann, Daniel Bergman, Ingmar Bergman Jr., Olivier Assayas, Ruben Ostlund, Stig Bjorkman, Mia Hansen-Love, Katinka Farago, Carlos Saura, Jean-Claude Carriere, Gaby Dohm, Rita Russek, Gunnel Lindblom, Julia Dufvenius; Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Guy Amon/Benjamin Seikel/Stéphane Sorlat ; Oscilloscope Laboratories; 2018-Germany/France/USA-German, French, Swedish, Spanish, English and with English subtitles)
“A well-deserved love letter to master iconoclastic Swedish director Ingmar Bergman.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The acclaimed German actress and award-winning New Wave German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta (“The Other Woman”/”The German Sisters”), along with her co-directors Felix Moeller and Bettina Böhler (also the editor), direct a well-deserved love letter to master iconoclastic Swedish director Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007).
The Swedish treasure, one of the most influential directors, is known for his arty, psychological, questioning of faith and liberated sexual films. When his signature trademarks are spotted in other films, these films are usually referred to as a “Bergmanesque” film. Bergman was first recognized internationally for his 1957 “The Seventh Seal.” That was a film von Trotta said she fell in love with when seeing it in the late-1950s in Paris. The master’s other classics include Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), Wild Strawberries (1957), The Silence (1963), Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1972), Scenes from a Marriage (1973), and Fanny and Alexander (1982).
The approachable documentary, which I loved, does a good job of letting us see who the great director was rather than trying to explain his enigmatic films (an improbable task for a short film). Thereby it takes a lighthearted approach, and is both an informative and good watch–in my opinion it’s the best of many documentaries on Bergman.
In a spirited conversational tone we get to know the man and his beliefs. The son of a Lutheran minister, born in Uppsala, Sweden, survived a difficult yet comfortable childhood to become a screenwriter and a stage, television and movie director noted for his personal way in his art making. In a vintage interview clip he tells us, “I have always felt lonely in the world out there and that is why I escaped into filmmaking, even though the feeling of community is an illusion.” That alone should be a hook to get you to see this wonderful work, which also shows us rare archive films, candid conversations with noted directors influenced by him like Olivier Assayas, Stig Björkman, and Carlos Saura, and his favorite actress, the great Liv Ullmann, his muse, talking freely about her favorite director. The filmmaker also acknowledges Bergman as a womanizer, and includes a must-see candid interview with his filmmaker son Daniel that adds gravitas to his bio story as a father, artist, and mentor.
There’s little doubt Bergman fans will enjoy this film, but so should the younger generation of viewers that might need some catching up on him.
REVIEWED ON 10/29/2018 GRADE: A