Full Review: SEARCHING FOR INGMAR BERGMAN (Germany/France 2018) ****

Searching for Ingmar Bergman Poster

Internationally renowned director Margarethe von Trotta takes a closer look at Bergman’s life and work and explores his film legacy with Bergman’s closest collaborators, both in front and … See full summary »


Margarethe von Trotta (concept), Felix Moeller (concept)

German director Margarethe von Trotta pays tribute to Swedish director Ingmar Bergman

in honour of the centennial of his birth. Von Trotta presents a detailed account of his life and his impact on filmmaking through excerpts of his work and interviews with family and contemporaries (Olivier Assayas, Mia Hansen-Love, Ruben Ostlund).  

Her film begins with a segment of THE SEVENTH SEAL with actor Max Von Sydow and explanation of each shot in detail.  Von Sydow is seen waking up on a beach with his squire by his side.  He is seeing washing his face before meeting the Grim Reaper.  There is a fadeout of a chess board with the pieces washed away by the sea.  Each shot is explain by the voiceover, thus allowing the audience to see a different interpretation of the details as well as the mastery of Bergman’s work.

There is a compilation of Bergman’s other films including his more famous ones like WILD STRAWBERRIES, CRIES AND WHISPERS, HOUR OF THE WOLF and his later works like my personal favourite, the over 3-hour long FANNY AND ALEXANDER.

These and many other films are also displayed and put into perspective by actresses who have worked on many of Bergman’s films like Liv Ulmann who speak fondly of the man.  His thoughts and inability to love his own children are also revealed.  FANNY AND ALEXANDER however showed his brilliant portrayal of children.  Von Trotta maintains that all the children portrayed in his films are images of himself.  

The film briefly traces his personal life living in Stockholm as a child.  Nothing is said of his birthplace, the religious town of Uppsala, which I visited when I was in Sweden, being an ardent Bergman fan.

The film has limited footage of Bergman in interviews and on the set.  But these are rare footages prized in the documentary. 

The film is a bit long because it includes quite a few clips from the past Bergman classics.  But thy are an absolute pleasure to watch, so who is one to complain?  The most famous scene of all the Bergman’s films (the one where the elderly man looks into a coffin to see himself in it) is of course, in it.  I am surprised there was no shot of the image with the clock which has no hands.

The film whets the appetite for watching Bergman films, a retrospective of the Master’s work that will be presented by TIFF Cinematheque the fall of 2018.  Extremely insightful and a treasure for cineastes!  Von Trotta’s own film THE GERMAN SISTERS was selected by Bergman as one of his favourite films.

SEARCHING FOR INGMAR BERGMAN is a doc to be seen by all those who not only love the Master but for all those who love the medium of film.  (Bergman was the first auteur that introduced me to non-commercial film in Singapore, his films provided courtesy by the Swedish Institute in Singapore).

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E91QEXSJ1Es

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