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Op-Ed: Ingmar Bergman Centennial

by Riley Lane

photography courtesy of IndieWire

Swedish director Ingmar Bergman would have turned 100 years old this year, and Boston celebrated the milestone with numerous screenings and events around the city. All across town at the Brattle, Coolidge and Harvard Film Archive theaters, a total of 28 features were shown between August 31 and October 14.

Select screenings included special events, such as a September 26th screening of Autumn Sonata (1978) with costar Liv Ullmann in attendance for a Q&A, as well as multiple extended cut showings that include an additional two hours of screen time cut from the original theatrical releases.

A pioneering auteur, Bergman’s work includes academy award winner Through a Glass, Darkly (1961), and cinematic masterpiece Persona (1966). Over the course of his career, Bergman directed over 60 films and documentaries, many of which he wrote himself. He is considered by numerous critics as one of the most influential filmmakers of all time, continually striving to capture the subtle intricacies of the human condition.

After watching the psychological thriller, Persona, I was immediately infatuated with Bergman’s complex vision of what it means to create a film. The feature delves into the emotional convergence of two women, all while acknowledging its role as an intricately constructed work.

“I find Persona an incredible example of psychological film that manages to convey conflicted aspects of a self through multiple characters on screen,” said Daniel Leonard, a Master’s student of English who serves as a Teaching Fellow for the course Literature and the Art of Film. “I’m able to think through my own interior life by watching a story, which I definitely don’t think other directors were achieving around that time.”

The film received a 4/4 rating from renowned critic Roger Ebert, who in his review described the film as one "we return to over the years, for the beauty of its images and because we hope to understand its mysteries”.

As part of the centennial celebration, I had the pleasure of also attending a screening of Summer Interlude (1951) at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, MA. The film represents a creative turning point for the director, which in 1951 was already five years and nine features into his career.

In an interview with Esquire in 1960, Bergman said he was “very fond of ‘Summer Interlude.’ It is my favorite movie. I don’t mean that it’s my best. I don’t know which movie is my best.”

The film follows Marie, an esteemed ballet dancer, as she revisits a summer in her youth, the first and only time she fell in love. After losing her love (Henrik) at the end of the very same summer, Marie is forced to deal with its heavy traumatic toll, navigating the next 13 years of her life in a tight emotional shell.

After the screening, local Cambridge resident Martha Stokes expressed that she enjoyed the film, stating that the movie was “delightful.”

The film, articulated by critic Sean Axmaker, was “a breakthrough for Bergman,” she said. “[It was] his first film built around a strong, assertive, sure woman and the first shot extensively on location, where the natural world becomes a defining reflection of the lives of his characters.”

Ingmar Bergman was one of cinema’s most pioneering and inventive directors, and the screenings were a great celebration of his life and career, as well as an exciting fall adventure to one of Boston’s most charming theaters.

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