Bergman, Ingmar: Auteur–Recurrent Themes, Obsessions

Research in Progress (March 1, 2021)

A consistent series of themes, often structured as binary oppositions, marks most of Ingmar Bergman’s films:

God vs. Devil

Goodness vs. Evil

Life vs. Death

Tragic isolation of Existence vs. Family Unity

Spiritual torment and anguish vs. Possible Redemption

The great Village Voice critic Andrew Sarris has noted that Bergman had used film as personal expression long before the emergence of the auteur perspective (in France or the U.S.).

He made psychological movies, imbued with Freudian psychology and defined by psychoanalysis, which combines a clinical approach with a darker gothic sensibility.

Bergman has compared the film medium with that of music:

“Film and Music are much the same. They are means of expression and communication that bypass man’s reason and touch his emotional centers.  The film isn’t just a picture. Music isn’t just a sound. Both of them work with rhythmic sequences, harmonies, colors, relations, forms.

Film should communicate psychic states, not merely project images of external action.”

In his movies, which are mystical and allegorical, Bergman has focused on the inner landscapes, their ideas inspired by both his conscious and subconscious mind.

He has always been more interested in the unique ability of film to convey emotions, impressions, inner states of mind, rather than in promoting ideas or telling plot-oriented stories.

In his psychological films, Bergman has combined the clinical with the gothic, often using one to reinforce or complement the other.

Many of Bergman’s movies contain some kind of a show or performance in them, ballet, circus, magic-makers.

In Persona, it’s the inner movie in the movie.

Bergman has the capacity to create images that set off reverberations, images that are suspended in time.

In Persona, it’s Bibi Anderson’s reverie of the orgy

Ingmar Bergman: Oscar Nominations and Awards

Seven films of the Swedish director (who died in 2007) have been nominated for or have won the Oscar Awards in various categories.

They are, in chronological order:

Wild Strawberries (1959):

Nominated for Best Story and Screenplay

The Virgin Spring (1960):

2 nominations, 1 award

Best Foreign Language Film

Through a Glass Darkly (1961):

2 nominations, 1 award

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominated for Best Story and Screenplay

Cries and Whispers (1973):

5 Nominations, including Best Picture

Face to Face (1976):

2 nominations, no awards

Best Director: Ingmar Bergman

Best Actress: Liv Ullmann

Autumn Sonata (1978):

2 nominations

Best Actress: Ingrid Bergman

Best Original Screenplay

Fanny and Alexander (1983)

6 nominations