Bergman - A Year in a Life

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Ingmar Bergman’s birth in 1918, Jane Magnusson has chosen, in this her second documentary about the Swedish director, to concentrate on the year 1957 as one of the richest moments in his career. This was the year that opened with the release of The Seventh Seal and later, over the summer, saw the production of two further classic movies, Wild Strawberries and So Close to Life. In addition, he shot his first film for television, M. Sleeman is Coming, and staged memorable productions of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt and Molière’s Le Misanthrope at Malmö’s Municipal Theatre. An exhausting schedule by any standard: one might well wonder how it was physically possible.
Magnusson’s documentary goes into this punishing trajectory in all the detail one could hope for; but at the same time, she feels free to roam backwards and forwards over further aspects of his life, in the process constructing a nuanced portrait of the director such as perhaps we have never seen before on the screen. In particular, some problematic areas of the director’s biography are examined with admirable candour: his right-wing political leanings (brother Dag – interviewed here for the first time on screen – was a leading light in the Swedish Nazi Party; Bergman himself in his youth had close affective ties with Germany); his highly problematic relationship with women; his tendency to shamelessly fabricate facts when it suited him; and finally, a disturbingly vindictive attitude towards colleagues and rivals that began to manifest itself at the height of his fame, and which came close to ruining the careers of several talented individuals in his entourage.
Yet it would be wrong to think of this documentary as deliberately biased or polemical. On the contrary, Bergman’s enormous artistic achievement is acknowledged and placed in appropriate context. And Magnusson is clear that there was indeed a warm, kind side of his character: many friends are here seen testifying to it. In the depths of his soul, she locates a huge loneliness. The exploration of these contradictions makes for a fascinatingly thoughtful documentary.

(mlf)

Jane Magnusson

Born in 1968, Jane Magnusson is an award-winning Swedish director and journalist. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University. In addition to her work as a scriptwriter and director, she also writes critiques of Swedish films. Magnusson composed the script for the feature film The Swimsuit Issue (2008) and served as director for the documentary film Ebbe: The Movie (2009), which won an award for Best Documentary at the Swedish Guldbagge Awards in 2009. In 2012, together with Hynek Pallas, she filmed the TV documentary film series Bergman’s Video, from which she developed the documentary Trespassing Bergman (2013), which was screened at the Venice International Film Festival and at DOKUARTS in Berlin. Her short film Vox Lipoma (2018) was selected to compete in the official short film section at Sundance Film Festival 2018.