by Bengt Forslund
In the fall of 2004, Ingmar Bergman’s film Saraband opened to a generally favourable response. This was quite a remarkable event, not only because the legendary Swedish filmmaker was 86 years old, but also because Saraband had been made not for the cinema but for television. Since it had been shot in HDTV, however, it could be shown on the big screen, with a technical quality no one could dream of 20 years ago.
As critics noted, the power and beauty of Bergman’s art and his skill at drawing out powerful moments of humanity between actors were undiminished. Bergman had shown in masterpieces going back half a century that he used film as no one else, to dig deeply and relentlessly into the body and soul of human relationships.
He had announced that Saraband would be his last artistic endeavour – no more theatre directing, no more films, no more television, no more radio. In this article I will take him at his word, though he’s made that promise before. As someone who has lived inside the world of Swedish film for 40 years, I wonder how his enormous shoes might be filled.
I will not try to capture his legacy. Bergman’s brilliance has given rise to more than 130 books, covering cinematography and also the many dimensions of human relations – psychology, psychiatry, sociology, religion – that he grappled with in some 40 films. The literature has flourished especially since Bergman declared that the highly acclaimed Fanny and Alexander (1982) would be his last film.