Ingmar Bergman Volume 1 [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (24th July 2021).
The Film

Ingmar Bergman Volume 1

When listing the most influential filmmakers of all time, it would be hard to find a list that didn't include Ingmar Bergman. The Swedish auteur became the most recognized name in Swedish cinema through his works as a director as well as a writer, delving deep into the human psyche with dark yet enlightening stories of love and loss, unforgettable surreal images in the midst of straightforward reality, and hypnotic visuals especially that of the extreme closeups of faces. While his works from the 1950s onward were critically lauded internationally, his earliest works in the 1940s are rarely mentioned. As a young filmmaker, his earliest works may not have the stature of his later works, but they are certainly worth a look for film fans and those interested in seeing the early seeds of what eventually was coined "Bergman-esque".


"Torment" (Hets) (1944)

Jan-Erik (played by Alf Kjellin) is a student that is not terribly focused on his studies, especially with his sadistically tough Latin teacher who the kids nickname "Caligula" (played by Stig Järrel) is there to torment him even further during classes. It is one evening that Jan-Erik sees a young woman stumbling down a dark alleyway in a drunken state, in which he decides to help her home. Bertha (played by Mai Zetterling) works at the tobacco shop and has a dark secret. She is also being tormented by an older figure who is abusing her...

Ingmar Bergman was hired by Svensk Filmindustri in 1942 as a writer. Adapting screenplays from novels and also creating unique works, his first original material to be made into a film was "Torment" in 1944, directed by Alf Sjöberg. Bergman also worked as the assistant director for the production, and even the final rewritten scene at the behest of the studio was shot by Bergman as Sjöberg was unavailable for the reshoot. Though Sjöberg was the director, the film has Bergman's fingerprints all over it. The distrust between the lone student and the institution, the mysterious yet drawing female lead who is suffering, the dark themes of sex, violence, and mental anguish. The film did cause some controversy with its negative look at education and the nature of the sadistic instructor, which Bergman stated that much of it was written as a critique of the Swedish educational system.

The film was a critical success as well, winning the Grand Prize of the Festival at Cannes and nominated for the Grand International Award at the Venice Film Festival. From its dark themes and brutal honesty with fine performances, it certainly stands out as a fine debut for the writer, who would later explore much more internally in his subsequent works. "Torment" may not have been a Bergman directed film, but it should not be an overlooked work in his filmography.


"Crisis" (Kris) (1946)

Nelly (played by Inga Landgré) is an 18 year old girl living with her foster mother Ingeborg (played by Dagny Lind), a local piano teacher. Life turns upside down for her with the abrupt arrival of her birth mother Jenny (played by Marianne Löfgren), who takes Nelly to Stockholm, where she sees a darker side of life.

"Crisis" marked a significant turn in Bergman's career. This was his first film in the director's seat, with an adaptation of the Danish radio play "Moderhjertet", written by Leck Fischer. The film certainly feels like it is taken from a play, as there is a narrator from the opening that reminds the audience that this is a staged work, from the curtains opening to the scenes playing out. The film is mostly centered around the female characters, with the young Nelly seeing the city life for the first time and how different and darker it is compared to her rural hometown of many years. But one of the standouts is the character of Jack (played by Stig Olin) who is a gigolo is consistently in an arm's reach away from Nelly, as well as with her mother Jenny. Obviously he is bad news to her but it doesn't shy her away at all, as she is drawn to the bad boy like any teenager would at that age. The story is fairly straightforward without too many surprises, but that's what also makes this work fall a little short on Bergman's filmography.

The production was not a positive one for Bergman, in which the title itself could be a title for the making-of the film. Bergman did not like the original story but was able to turn in a script to Svensk Filmindustri that they considered satisfactory. He had trouble with directing, there were issues with weather, second thoughts on some of the casting, and even an accident that injured a crew member. Bergman was unsatisfied with the final result of the film and so was the public and critics. It was a failure at the time. To say in retrospect, "Crisis" is not entirely a disaster at all, but something that feels short and not as creatively inspiring as it could have been. From inexperience and a script that didn't turn out positively, it has a lot of points that can be discussed about. Bergman's career wasn't ruined completely. As he would direct "It Rains on Our Love" later that year and "A Ship Bound for India" the next, as well as writing the screenplay for "Woman without a Face".


"Music in Darkness" (Musik i Mörker) (1948)

Bengt (played by Birger Malmsten) is a pianist who lost his sight during a military exercise some time ago. His look towards life becomes bitter after the incident, even with piano playing not lifting his spirits. Ingrid (played by Mai Zetterling) is a servant for his parents who helps him with his needs, but during their time together the two slowly but surely start falling for each other.

"Music in Darkness" was Bergman's second film as the director but not as a writer. The original novel and the screenplay adaptation were both written by Dagmar Edqvist herself, a melodrama about a blind man and his caretaker. While Sweden was a neutral country during WWII, the effects of the war were strongly in the minds of its people who saw conflict and devastation between their neighboring countries. The setting of the former soldier losing his eyesight would have probably spoken more directly to audiences in neighboring countries, the bitterness seen from the character of Bengt would still resonate among any audience member. With his life turned upside down and his hopes destroyed, his heart opening for someone would not be easy, but the character of Ingrid, beautifully portrayed by Mai Zetterling, who previously worked with Bergman on "Torment" shines brightly in this fairly straightforward drama.

Love stories featuring a blinded figure is a fairly common theme for melodramas, from "Jane Eyre", "Magnificent Obsession", to the highly underrated "The White Countess", and like many of them, one of the bigger weaknesses is that of showcasing the blind figure by the actor. Acting blind might be one of the more difficult handicaps to portray for actors, and sadly Malmsten's performance is not all that convincing. It probably shouldn't detract too much from the emotional elements of the story, but it can be hard to grasp the character's truth without seeing more of the difficulties he is going against rather than just implication. Bergman does a fair job with the work yet the film is rarely recognized in his filmography, most likely because he only had the "simple" hand of directing something without his input with the writing process. It may lack the Bergman touch and may delve into a dramatic direction that is predictable, it's still a worthy watch. The film was nominated for the Grand International Award at the Venice Film Festival.


"Eva" (1948)

Young sailor Bo (played by Birger Malmsten) is in a relationship with the beautiful Eva (played by Eva Stiberg), but traumatic memories of his past has kept tampered with his current relationship. He reminisces about some of the more devastating times of his life, including a tragic accident after he ran away from home, as well as a disturbing happening with his best friend Göran (played by Stig Olin) and his sexy and flirtatious girlfriend Susanne (played by Eva Dahlbeck). Can Bo and Eva truly find happiness together with such heavy past memories haunting him?

Directed by Gustaf Molander, this would be the second film the director would helm from Bergman's scripts, the previous being "Woman without a Face" a year prior, "Eva" has a striking opening sequence of a soldier's PTSD nightmares shown in an abstract montage, like "Music in Darkness", visualizing the effects of the war that ravaged the continent and its peoples. While the story might focus on the character of Bo and his relationship with Eva, there is much more to be seen through the lengthy flashback sequences in the film. Seeing a young 12 year old Bo (played wonderfully by Lasse Sarri) running away from home after an argument with his parents, befriending the blind 10 year old Marthe (played by Anne Carlsson who was in fact blind from birth) and her tragic death that Bo continues to traumatically recall, the film has some excellent moments in these sequences both emotionally as well as visually with the landscapes, characters, and train scenes.

The heavier moments with Bo in the present day on the other hand, does seem a bit weaker, with some sequences such as Susanne's seduction scene being fairly shallow in comparison to the rest of the feature. The troubles that Bo and Eva have in their rocky but young relationship are showcased, from jealousy to pregnancy to other complications, but emotionally they don't feel as deep as they could be, and they lack the chemistry seen in some of Bergman's later works where he tests relationships to the breaking point, such as in , "The Touch", or "Scenes from a Marriage". But this was much earlier in the filmmaker's career and he didn't have the experience to go along with it most likely. Again, a fine film especially in the flashback sequences, but the adult portions do seem flatter in contrast. The film was nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.


"Port of Call" (Hamnstad) (1948)

Berit (played by Nine-Christine Jönsson) tries to end her life by jumping off a pier, but is immediately rescued and taken to the hospital. A young woman who has gone through a lot of mistreatment and hardships in life, she sees no positive light for her future at all. Gösta (played by Bengt Eklund), a young sailor meets her and falls in love with her at an instant. Though he is willing to do anything for her, she is afraid of revealing her past and having their relationship end...

Bergman adapted the novel "Guldet och murarna" written by Olle Länsberg for "Port of Call", which is one of the filmmaker's earliest works to have a very Bergman-esque feel with all aspects. The broken characters, the emotionally complex relationships, mental anguish, outcasts of society - all are brilliantly set in place in the production, with great performances from Jönsson and Eklund in the leads. The film opens with Berit's suicide attempt. What caused her to jump and who she is are revealed afterwards, but having the shocking opening certainly grabs the audience in for the suspense, rather than leading up to the events. The character of Berit doesn't seem to be a bad person at all. She has made some wrong choices in her life and her upbringing and family life are partially to blame, but it's her seemingly neverending hole that she has mentally dug herself into making things worse than they really could be. Sure there might be other people in a worse position than her, and how many men did she have broken promises with in the past without her realizing that? She is a character that audiences will be hopeful for, even if she doesn't see herself having any hope left at all.

The character of Gösta falls for her naturally, without knowing her past or her struggles, instead seeing where things are at that time in their lives. He's certainly a fine man with principle, though he might not be rich or from an upper class family. He's also not just a typical nice guy either and does have some baggage with him as well. There are many points that can be filled in through the blanks, but what Bergman does exceptionally right here is showcasing the difficult relationship of two people with a lot to say to each other, but do not know how to express them without negative notions getting in the way. Is it better to keep things silent and in the past or be open and accept the consequences?


"Prison" (Fängelse) (1949)

Filmmaker Martin (played by Hasse Ekman) is working on a movie when he is one day met by his old teacher Paul (played by Anders Henrikson), who proposes a fascinating idea for a new production, about Hell on Earth. What if Satan himself was in control of Earth and there was no God? While Martin laughs off at the idea, he tells a few of his friends about it, though in turn their lives seem to somehow match what the old teacher was proposing as fiction, becoming fact.

Another milestone in Bergman's career came with "Prison", the first film that could truly be called a Bergman film as he was the director and screenwriter of the original script. It was not a conventional work. It was not a major hit. An experimental meta-film, it opens directly on a film set with the cast and crew in performance, blurring the edge of cinema by informing the audience that this is a film, and it is partially a film about making a film. But besides that, the film also questions religion, with the teacher asking what a world would be like if God was suddenly gone. Bergman was a man that became disillusioned with more than a few things. He was the son of a Lutheran minister and a chaplain to the King of Sweden. Religious beliefs and questioning them became a theme revisited throughout his filmography. As stated in "Torment" he questioned moral authority in the education system. During WWII, Sweden was in a neutral state, though Bergman was sympathetic towards the Nazi party and even idolized Hitler. It was only after seeing footage from the concentration camps and seeing the evils done by the Nazis that made him question his political stance.

Some of the most striking moments in "Prison" are some of the dream sequences that work wonderfully, which would later be explored further in works like "Wild Strawberries" and "Persona" by the director, but "Prison" still lacks a basic core narrative and structured characters. The scenes can seem episodic rather than consistent as part of a single narrative, and feels disjointed throughout. The experiment of the teacher and the connections between the happenings of other characters could have been stronger, though there are still some positives to speak of such as the visuals that are seen throughout. It may have been an important step in Bergman's career, but from a retrospective point of view, it is an interesting stepping stone with hints of what was yet to come.


"Thirst" (Törst) (1949)

Bertil (played by Birger Malmsten) and Rut (played by Eva Henning) are husband and wife, traveling by train through Italy on vacation. Their marriage is not in the happiest of places, as the two have a lot of baggage between them. Both have had disastrous and traumatic relationships in the past with partners they should not have been involved with, and their memories haunt them to this day. Will they be able to salvage their marriage or with distrust and disloyalty prove stronger?

Adapted from writer and actress Birgit Tengroth's short stories by Herbert Grevenius, "Thirst" is an interesting look at relationship highs and lows from both male and female angles. For Bergman, this production showcased much more of the female angle at a deeper and more complex that some of his previous productions. He may have looked at relationship problems in "Music in Darkness", "Eva", and "Port of Call", but the complexities in "Thirst" had quite a bit more to explore. Infidelity, jealousy, same sex relations, the sexual themes were much more adult than what had been showcased in the past without being too explicit.

Besides the train sequences, the flashbacks in "Thirst" explore much more about the main couple's past while also reflecting their present state and what may become of their future. Made with many long takes with intricate camera moves, the performances of the actors are to be given just as much credit as the camerawork by Gunnar Fischer. One of the greater highlights of Bergman's early works, it should definitely be seen and re-examined, especially in comparison to the director's later works also looking at troubled relationships.


"To Joy" (Till glädje) (1950)

Stig (played by Stig Olin) and Marta (played by Maj-Britt Nilsson) are two violinists in an orchestra that fall in love during their time together. From courtship to marriage to children, their lives see both happiness as well as hardships throughout the times, but all is tragic, as this is the story of Stig recalling his time with Marta who had suddenly passed away.

The opening of "To Joy", like that of "Port of Call" starts off with a shock. Though in "Port of Call" the girl survives an attempted suicide, "To Joy" starts with news of an accidental death. The death of Stig's wife Marta. In essence the entire film is a flashback, with Stig recalling the life he had with his wife, with both ups and downs along the way. Like many of Bergman's other works, it's equally as uplifting as it is heartbreaking. In addition, as the couple meet while playing in an orchestra led by conductor Sönderby (played by Victor Sjöström), music plays a very important part of the film with many portions dedicated to the orchestra playing Beethoven throughout. And like their previous film together, cinematographer Gunnar Fischer uses intricate camera moves and long takes especially during the music sequences to excellent effect.

The story takes place over a period of years, from courtship to marriage to children, showing the awkwardness of their early days together to their difficulties adjusting to life as a married couple and with children to take care of. But nothing seems forced or brute, making the relationship a reflection of reality than something out of a fantasy. One of the greater highlights of Bergman's early years as a filmmaker, "To Joy" is incredibly enjoyable even if the audience knows about the tragedy right from the start. People never want to face the fact that death of a loved one can come at any moment. But it is inevitable and can be devastatingly sudden. "To Joy" is a very fitting title, considering it comes from Beethoven and being the celebration of life, not the memorial of death. Beautiful and tragic, it's an absolute gem.


Ingmar Bergman died on July 30th, 2007 at the age of 89, leaving an incredible amount of work as director and writer for film and television which continues to be watched and studied years after his passing. His earliest works may not be considered the filmmaker's best, but there are early examples of what was to come, and are essential viewing for people interested in where Bergman started from.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray set

Video

The BFI presents all eight films in the original 1.37:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. All the films were restored in 2K by Svensk Filmindustri. "Torment" was restored in 2015 from a 35mm interpositive. "Crisis" was restored in 2016 from a 35mm interpositive. "Music in Darkness" was restored in 2017 from a 35mm duplicate negative. "Eva" was restored in 2017 from a 35mm interpositive. "Port of Call" was restored in 2016 from a 35mm duplicate negative. "Prison" was digitally restored in 2017 from a restored 2004 print. "Thirst" was restored in 2017 from a 35mm duplicate negative. "Toy Joy" was restored in 2017 from a 35mm duplicate negative. All films start with text information on the elemaents used and the completion dates of the restortions in Swedish.

Considering the ages of the films and their source materials, the films looks absolutely great though there are imperfections to be found as well. The black and white image on all films have been stabilized and graded consistently, with very good grey levels throughout. The remastered images have some minor damage such as speckles and scratches, but they have been minimized digitally, with no major troubles to speak of. Grain has been minimized but still kept for a very natural filmic look for the most part. The opening of "Prison" looks a little odd with digital grain, but it quickly looks find after a few minutes in.

DISC ONE
* "Torment" (1944) (101:04)
Ingmar Bergman Guardian Interview (1982, audio only, plays over the film) (63:07)
"Ingmar Bergman: First Cries, Early Whispers" visual essay by Leigh Singer (20:17)

The runtimes are as follows:
* "Crisis" (92:40)
* "Music in Darkness" (87:22)
* "Eva" (96:58)
* "Port of Call" (97:06)
* "Prison" (80:25)
* "Thirst" (84:12)
* "To Joy" (1950) (98:37)

Audio

Swedish LPCM 1.0
All films have uncompressed original mono tracks from remastered original elements. All sound fairly good considering their age, though some sound better than others. "Crisis" has some hissy moments, "Music in Darkness" has some instances where dialogue sounds a bit muffled. But for the most part, dialogue is clear and easy to hear, music is well balanced as well as the effects, though there are limitations with the mono track and the original elements. Overall, the soundtracks are pleasing though imperfect.

There are optional English subtitles in a white font. They are easy to read and well timed. "Port of Call" has some very minor portions in English but they are kept unsubtitled. In addition there were very minor issues here and there with the subtitles, noticeably in "Port of Call" in which they spelled "Hello" as "Hallo".

Extras

Ingmar Bergman Volume 1 is a 5 disc set, with the films being on the following discs:

DISC ONE
* "Torment"

DISC TWO
* "Crisis"
* "Music in Darkness"

DISC THREE
* "Eva"
* "Port of Call"

DISC FOUR
* "Prison"
* "Thirst"

DISC FIVE
* "To Joy"


The sole extras are on DISC ONE:

Ingmar Bergman Guardian Interview (1982) (63:07)
In this on stage interview with Bergman at the National Film Theatre which was conducted on September 7 1982, critic and historian Peter Cowie and Bergman discuss about Alf Sjöberg, the Swedish filmmaker who died two years prior. Bergman discusses about the Royal Dramatic Theatre, the early years of Swedish cinema, Sjöberg's most celebrated film "Miss Julie" and more. This is preserved as audio-only, and this extra is played as an alternate audio track to the film for the first 63 minutes. Note that this interview was previously available on the BFI's Blu-ray and DVD for "Bergman: A Year in a Life". On those editions, the interview seemed to be cut short, missing Cowie's final comment and applause from the audience. The interview here has them reinstated.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Ingmar Bergman: First Cries, Early Whispers" visual essay by Leigh Singer (20:17)
In this excellent visual essay, journalist and filmmaker Leigh Singer discusses Bergman's early works as a writer and director, the themes and similarities, the frequent collaborators, both the weaker and stronger elements that could be found, and more. Shown are clips of various films from the set a well as later works such as "Persona", "Fanny and Alexander" and more, with burned-in subtitles for some of the underlying Swedish dialogue.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.37:1/1.66:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with burned-in English subtitles

Book
A 96 page book is included. The first essay is "A Breath of Fresh Air" by Jan Holmberg, CEO of the Ingmar Bergman Foundation which gives an overview of the Bergman's earliest works. "A Filmmaker Haunted by His Childhood" is the second essay, penned by critic Philip Kemp which discusses "Torment" and "Eva" in detail. The third essay "Directorial Beginnings" by critic Geoff Andrew looks at Bergman's "Crisis". "Brought to Light" is the fourth essay, by critic Jessica Kiang looking at "Music in Darkness". Philip Kemp provides another essay with "In the Spirit of Rossellini", discussing about "Port of Call". The next essay, critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas' "This Is Not Hell" is a look at "Prison". "The Story of Birgit Tengroth" is the next essay, by critic Kat Ellinger looking at the production and themes of "Thirst". Finally, "Bergman's Ode to Experience" by author Laura Hubner looks at "To Joy" and its themes. There are also full film credits, special features information, transfer information, acknowledgements, and stills.


"Torment", "Music in Darkness", "Eva", and "Prison" are on Blu-ray for the first time worldwide in this BFI set. "Crisis", "Port of Call", "Thirst" and "To Joy" were previously released on Blu-ray in the United States as part of The Criterion Collection's "Ingmar Bergman's Cinema" 30-disc Blu-ray boxset from 2018, which used the same transfers from Svensk Filmindustri as found on the UK BFI Blu-ray set. The Criterion box had its own exclusive extras.


Embedded below is a promotional trailer from the BFI.

Overall

"Ingmar Bergman Volume 1" features some of the filmmaker's earliest works, which are not all masterpieces but have their individual charms, strengths, as well as weaknesses. For Bergman fans this is an essential look into his seeds of creativity in experimentation and creativity, though for newcomers it is recommended to see his landmark works first before delving into these early productions. The BFI's set has great transfers of the eight films included, though the extras may be a little slim. Still comes as highly recommended.

Note the ratings for below are averages for all eight films in this set.

The Film: B Video: A- Audio: B+ Extras: B- Overall: B

 


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