Notable for cementing his reputation as one of Europe’s finest directors, they still remain amongst his finest work and feature some exquisite cinematography from long-time collaborator Sven Nykvist.
Through A Glass Darkly (1961) is a searing family drama about a disturbed young woman (Harriet Andersson) as she holidays on a summer island with her detached father (Gunnar Björnstrand), husband (Max Von Sydow) and brother (Lars Passgård). It won Bergman his second Best Foreign Film Oscar and is bleak but engrossing study of a family struggling to cope under enormous emotional and mental strains. Andersson and Van Sydow are especially outstanding in their roles.
Winter Light (1962) explores the spiritual crisis facing a small-town pastor (Gunnar Björnstrand) over a single Sunday afternoon in November. As his congregation dwindles, his remaining parishioners (Ingrid Thulin, Max von Sydow) have problems which reflect his own spiritual demons. Björnstrand gives one of his greatest performances and the lack of music, sparse sets, and stark black-and-white photography all add to the powerful sense of desolation. Released in the year when the world actually was on the brink of nuclear Armageddon, it is one of Bergman’s most raw and spellbinding films.
The Silence (1963) is the enigmatic tale of two sisters: the eldest is a translator (Ingrid Thulin) with a serious illness, whilst the younger one (Gunnel Lindblom) has a young son (Jörgen Lindström). Whilst travelling back to Sweden, they stop off in an unidentified Central European country and various tensions arise. The human struggle to communicate with each other as well as God is a pervasive theme throughout and the sensual depiction of human desire is superbly evoked (so well in fact, that the film caused considerable controversy when it was released).
Tartan have remastered the films and added introductions with Marie Nyrerod speaking to the late director.
Although they are short they feature Bergman talking about his fondness for Winter Light and the censorship issues surrounding by The Silence.
The discs come in separate slim line cases along with a booklet of reviews by the late critic Philip Strick. The discs are all region free.
14 Blades (Icon Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD] Centurion (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / DVD] Elvis – The Movie (Fremantle Home Entertainment) [DVD] Mongrels: Series 1 (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / DVD] Perrier’s Bounty (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / DVD] The Killing Machine (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / DVD] The Machinist (Palisades Tartan) [Blu-ray / with DVD] Whip It (Lionsgate UK) [Blu-ray / DVD]
Originally conceived as TV mini-series, it is the story of 10-year-old Alexander Ekdahl (Bertil Guve), his younger sister, Fanny (Pernilla Alwin) and and their well-to-do family in Uppsala, Sweden.
In some ways it was a love letter to Bergman’s own childhood with several set pieces paying homage to his youth: a joyous Christmas gathering of relatives and servants; the emotional wrench when their recently-widowed mother (Ewa Froling) marries an austere minister; their warm relationship with a grandmother (Gunn Wallgren) who ‘kidnaps’ Fanny and Alexander in order to show them love and affection; and many others.
It still ranks as one of his finest films (which is no mean feat given his body of work) and one of the best of the 1980s. One of the most striking aspects is the way in which it goes against the grain of his work in the 1970s with its celebration of the joys amidst the hardships of family life.
A marvellous evocation of childhood, it is still an exquisite film to watch and was deservedly rewarded with Oscars for best foreign film, cinematography (by the incomparable Sven Nykvist), costumes and art direction/set decoration.
This is the 3-hour theatrical cut, which has been digitally restored from the original negative and soundtrack.
For that reason alone it is worth buying but true Bergman fans should also get the 5 hour TV version which is available on Artificial Eye and Criterion, which have more extras.
Fanny and Alexander is out now from Palisades Tartan