Ingmar Bergman Volume 2 [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (7th November 2021).
The Film

Ingmar Bergman Volume 2

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. His early works as a screenwriter and director in the 1940s laid some of the foundations of a signature style he would call his own, but it was in the following decade that his distinct works would take center stage as the face of Swedish cinema for international fame and acclaim.

"Summer Interlude" (Sommarlek) (1951)

Marie (played by Maj-Britt Nilsson) is a successful ballerina in her late twenties going through an emotional crossroads. Henrik (played by Birger Malmsten) was her first love. Thirteen years ago, the teenagers fell in love and experienced romance as well as heartbreak one summer, and the memories still give her a sense of both wonder and trauma to this day. While the ballet goes on a short hiatus, Marie returns to the island where she and Henrik first met, to confront her past and hopefully to move forward for her future.

In Bergman's 1950 film "To Joy", Nilsson played the ill-fated character of a wife that passes away and the husband recalling their romantic time together in flashback form. "Summer Interlude" takes the story and flips the genders and instead focuses on a short innocent love affair one summer between two innocent teens, rather than a story of a long marriage through its ups and downs. Both also feature the setting of a group of performers (in the case of "To Joy" a music group and in "Summer Interlude" ballet dancers), and parallels can be seen in other regards, though the films are very distinct from each other, this time seeing romance with more innocence. The love story between Marie and Henrik is wonderfully played with their banter towards each other with smiles and joy in the various scenes they have together. But as this is a Bergman film, the love story cannot continue without consequence.

Not particularly a spoiler, but the accidental death of Henrik absolutely crushes Marie and it is that trauma that has made her suffer through her adult life. There is her current boyfriend, the journalist David (played by Alf Kjellin) in which she has not discussed her past with. There is also Erland (played by Georg Funkquist), a family friend who was there when the tragedy struck, but his intentions were more than just to comfort the distraught Marie, by taking advantage of her at the time. The film doesn't get into the how Marie suffered over the years but only focuses in on thirteen years ago and the present day. The audience is not aware of the relationships she had in between, nor are they shown her struggles over the years as a rising ballerina but those are not the important issues at play in "Summer Interlude". In all sense, it seems that the memories were repressed for many years, but with the sudden encounter with Henrik's personal diary brought everything back to her mind.

Written by Bergman and Herbert Grevenius, "Summer Interlude" featured Bergman finding a strong foothold into his own style and themes, with romance and tragedy being centerpieces of the drama, as well as having creative control with the material and the direction. Bergman has stated that the film was one of his most important as he was able to film without troubles or interference, and although the story itself and the characters may be simple and not as complex as his later works, there is a genuine "Bergman-esque" style that centers on the film. Named one of the top ten films by Cahiers du Cinéma in 1951 and nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival, "Summer Interlude" was one of the earliest of his works to receive international attention.

"Women Waiting" (Kvinnors väntan) (1952)

Annette (played by Aino Taube), Rakel (played by Anita Björk), Marta (played by Maj-Britt Nilsson), and Karin (played by Eva Dahlbeck) are four sisters-in-law that are waiting for their husbands, who are brothers, to return to the cottage they are all staying at. During their time waiting, the women share stories about their married lives - from the good to the bad.

While his previous film looked at one person's flashback to a love affair one summer, Bergman's next feature had flashbacks of three women, all with quite different happenings but each being connected to each other in loose form. "Waiting Women" essentially is like three short stories with a fourth to tie them all together, and in essence feels like an omnibus film rather than a single feature. That may not necessarily be a negative, as it adds variety to the film and goes in unexpected directions. But does it particularly work in a positive light? It has its faults though the end result is a fairly enjoyable one, featuring elements of awkward comedy and of course dramatic tension.

The first story featuring Rakel and her husband Eugen (played by Karl-Arne Holmsten) is about adultery and jealousy as Rakel starts an affair with Kaj (played by Karl Julle), a former lover. The story is in the melodrama genre with some expected happenings, such as the husband's reaction to the news and how the adulterous couple cope with their affair. The second story of Marta and Martin (played by Birger Malmsten. She becomes pregnant with their child, but due to Martin having family issues that plague his financial livelihood, she is not able to tell him the good news as he is heavily preoccupied. Bergman experiments with the narrative by introducing dreams and the imagination off Marta of her life as a mother. The third story between Karin and Fredrik (played by Gunnar Björnstrand) is one of awkward comedy, as the couple get stuck in an elevator. During their lonely and claustrophobic time together, the couple dish out some lies and truths to each other, creating both tension and love at the same time. Of the three main flashbacks, the final one is a genuinely creative one, even if it features basically only two characters in a single enclosed space. Using lengthy takes and excellent banter between the two leads, it is easily the most entertaining and memorable sequences in the film. The second story is more of a revealing one, as it connects the dots between the women at the lodge well and also has some interesting twists on the narrative and time frames. The first story is average to say the least, but it does play on lust and temptation which can be enticing for some.

An experimental work that has a few ideas thrown together, Bergman holds things together with a great cast of characters, creative cinematography by Gunnar Fischer, and a story that slowly peels back the emotions and truths behind the women and men. The film may not be one of Bergman's best or most talked about, but was still nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1953.

"Summer with Monika" (Sommaren med Monika) (1953)

Monika (played by Harriet Andersson) and Harry (played by Lars Ekborg) are teenagers 18 and 19 years old respectively, who fall for each other during one summer. But things are not bright at home for the two of them. Monika's father (played by Åke Fridell) is an alcoholic and his sudden outbursts can lead to violence. With Harry spending too much time and with his mind on Monika, he decides to quit his job and run away with Monika via his father's boat as they live their lives away from their problems. But freedom is not as free as it seems for them in the long run...

"Summer with Monika" might be one of the earliest examples of a manic pixie dream girl on film, with the title character having all the qualities. The playful seduction, the positivity shown externally while being hurt internally, and all in tow is the young Harry, who is a good kid slowly moving towards her aura. Monika is not particularly trying to seduce the character of Harry. When their eyes meet it is not true love at first sight but one with innocence attached, as Bergman previously showed with the characters in "Summer Interlude". But there is also more with "Summer with Monika" in which the main characters are not heading towards a forward direction in life. "Interlude" had the female lead in a dance academy and the male in college. Here the two leads have menial working class jobs and are not pursuing further education. She is struggling as part of a family that has its issues with the drunken father. Harry on the other hand might not be experiencing the same sort of trauma, but feels he is stuck in a low end job and without loving support from his own family. It could be easy to write off "Summer with Monika" as yet another teens being free film, but there is much more than that, especially with the events that follow in the couple's escape from society.

Their escape by boat to a secluded area is not one with much thought. They are obviously not equipped to survive on their own with the minimal belongings as they have realized the unplanned idea. With their inexperience in tow, the couple live freely away from everyone by the sea with their boat, as they have dips in the sea and frolic on the sands. At the time there was controversy with the nudity shown, though tame in todays standards by showing Andersson's rear in shots and Harry seeing her fully nude from his viewpoint. Andersson, who was twenty years old at the time was able to pull off more than just showing bare skin by playing the character with true force that seemed more mature than her age. A character that was crying internally but loveable and seductive, and also one that showed courage and nervousness, as seen in the roast-stealing sequence. The film also showcased the consequences of their actions, with the unplanned pregnancy of Monika and how their lives would spiral into turmoil. Not all can be truly free, and some will suffer in the end.

Although it wasn't the main focus, the nudity shown made "Summer with Monika" a film that took the world by storm with word of mouth. In America, the distributors capitalized on it by actually editing in some unrelated nude scenes into the film to make it racier than it was, retitling it "Monika, the Story of a Bad Girl", for mostly drive-in markets. The original subtitled version was also in distribution from Janus Films at the same time, which played in art house cinemas. While critical success may have not been immediate, commercially it was a big step for Bergman and led to more creative control with his work.

"A Lesson in Love" (En lektion i kärlek) (1954)

David (played by Gunnar Björnstrand) and his wife Marianne (played by Eva Dahlbeck) are having some rough times in their marriage fifteen years in. With a divorce looming, she is on her way to Copenhagen to meet her lover Carl-Adam (played by Åke Fridell). But David hasn't lost feelings for her entirely, so with a chance opportunity to patch things up, he gets on board the same train as her to possibly rekindle their lost romance.

In comparison to his films dealing with love in serious matters, "A Lesson in Love" sees Bergman playing with comedy to a much higher degree with awkward absurdity. Starting off with David at his gynecologist office as he leaves suddenly while patients are waiting in queue, the first on screen encounter with him and Marianne seems like two random passengers rather than of a married couple in a rough patch. Obviously neither want to cause a scene on the train in the passenger compartment. But it is from their flashbacks that the audiences are transported to seeing their lives in times for better or worse. There are romantic sequences, absurd scenes, drunken tirades, and awkward moments, including times apart from one another where the rifts began to break down their once joyous relationship. Bergman's direction, written by Per Anders Fogelström as an adaptation of his own novel of the same name takes the comical elements to the max especially with the two leads, as well as from the supporting cast including Harriet Andersson as their daughter Nix and Fridell as the artist lover who is more than happy to meet David of all people.

One of the most lighthearted of all of Bergman's works, he shows that he was more than just a capable director of drama but also for comedy as well. Though not a big awards winner or a talked about film in his filmography, it is a fun time that would lead to one of his most celebrated comedy films and become an international hit, with "Smiles of a Summer Night"

"Smiles of a Summer Night" (Sommarnattens leende) (1955)

Fredrik Egerman (played by Gunnar Björnstrand) is a middle aged lawyer who remarried two years ago to Anne (played by Ulla Jacobsson), a young beauty nineteen years of age. Their marriage is not yet consummated due to her reluctance, but that leads to him visiting his old mistress, the stage actress Desirée Armfeldt (played by Eva Dahlbeck). But Desirée is not putting her love life entirely towards Fredrik, as she is currently also in a relationship with Count Carl-Magnus (played by Jarl Kulle). The count is also married, to Countess Charlotte (played by Margit Carlqvist). In addition to all of this, Fredrik's son Henrik (played by Björn Bjelfvenstam), a college student around the same age as his step-mother, is having adulterous feelings for her. With any of them really be able to find true love?

Bergman showed a fun comical side to his filmmaking with his previous film "A Lesson in Love". With "Smiles of a Summer Night" which he also wrote, Bergman was able to make a comedy film that hit all the right notes in awkwardness that would prove to be one of his most influential works, with directors such as Woody Allen with the direct tribute "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" and Wes Anderson with various instances of intertwined character relationships. As the film looks at different characters with various intentions and viewpoints, there isn't a particular main character to side with, instead relying on viewers to experience the happenings from a bystander's perspective. From Fredrik's sexual frustration, the Count in his militaristic demeanor, the young yet seemingly experienced maid Petra (played by Harriet Andersson), the tantalizing actress Desirée who sweeps everyone off their feet at any instant, the characters are what makes the film shine brightly. What many of them are doing is morally questionable, the comical interactions are what takes the center stage all the scenes. These do not rely on slapstick or gags, but with the actors being able to play their parts on the border of comical and realistic, yet leaning on the side of silly for the most part. Like many of his other works, Gunnar Fischer's cinematography captures the acting through long takes and minimal movements to have a stage presence rather than that of quick cutting cinema, leaving room for reactions and dialogue in the same frame with multiple actors in sight.

"Smiles of a Summer Night" was a major breakthrough, was nominated for numerous international awards, and received a special prize at Cannes. Due to its success, Bergman was able to find backing for his next film, which would be something completely different from his previous works, delving deeper into darkness, violence, and death.

"The Seventh Seal" (Det sjunde inseglet) (1957)

Antonius Block (played by Max Von Sydow) is a knight that has been fighting for the last decade in the crusades. Tired and weary on his way home with trusted squire Jön (played by Gunnar Björnstrand), Antonius encounters the black figure of Death Bengt Ekerot), who is ready to take his soul to the afterlife. Rather than accepting his fate, he entices Death with a game of friendly chess. If he wins, Death must set him free to live. If not, he is willing to have his life be taken. Antonius and Jön meet an interesting group of travelers along the way home, with Jof (played by Nils Poppe) and Mia (played by Bibi Andersson), a husband and wife acting team with a young toddler, Plog (played by Åke Fridell) a blacksmith whose wife has left him, a mute servant girl (played by Gunnel Lindblom), and others that show them the true joys of life with a diverse crowd of people. But with Death always taunting around every corner for Antonius, ready to continue their ongoing game, his time with joy might be limited.

Bergman wrote the play "Trämålning" (Wood Painting), in which he adapted it for the screen as "The Seventh Seal". Taking place in the middle ages as Europe was devastated by war as well as the Bubonic Plague (which is taking some liberty with historical accuracy as they were more than a century apart from each other), the period piece was not a recreation of the past but a general reflection on the meaning of life and death, while being able to experience human nature at its finest and its worst. For a story to have such darkness surrounding it with the onslaught of a pandemic ravaging a continent, the horrific nature of organized religion, and all accompanied by Death as an actual being, there are surprisingly humorous and touching moments that are scattered throughout the story. Bergman himself was the son of a very strict Lutheran minister and had Christianity as part of his life. The film is not a love letter to religion, but instead is one that questions and criticizes blind belief. Antonius Block's decade long battles in the Crusades has left him faithless, seeing how war in the name of God has given him post traumatic stress and questions as to what religion has truly offered. It's amazing to think that Von Sydow was only 26 years old when he portrayed the character, as his looks and demeaner were of a much older and experienced man. While he may be more serious on how it has affected him, Jön on the other hand sees everything more on the comical and cynical side. A realist that sees the world with Atheist eyes, he is quick to see the sham that religion and faith provides and provokes. His one liners and facial expressions are the polar opposite of Antonius, whose seriousness is only broken with infrequent smiles, such as when he is able to challenge Death with a chess game, or when he sees Jof and Mia entertaining their innocent young son. Each of the supporting characters have distinct personalities that make them unique. Jof has an ability to see otherworldly images. Whether they are apparitions or visions of the future, it's something that no one including his loving wife believes, but gives him a sense of bewilderment and joy towards his always bright and positive thinking character, brilliantly played by comic actor Nils Poppe. He and Bibi Andersson playing the husband and wife have obvious parallels to Mary and Joseph, in not just the naming of the characters but the fact they have a young son with them. Gunnel Lindblom's character of Plog may be a small part, but the actor brings the brute yet not so bright man to life, as he is angry and frustrated by the actions of his wife Lisa (played by Inga Gill) who has run off with actor Skat (played by Erik Strandmark). Other minor characters, such as the witch to be burned (played by Maud Hannsen) and the church painter (played by Gunnar Olsson) all make memorable moments, which can sometimes be darkly comical or deeply shocking. Bergman's casting of the performers is superb, and of course the performance of Bengt Ekerot as Death is a hauntingly wonderful one. With the pitch black robe, hairless pure white face, with an elegant yet strong presence in cadence and movement shows power that is not evil, but of grace and strength.

The story plays very much like an RPG in gaming terms. A journey between main characters in which they meet others along the way, some of which join the party on the journey, events happening in towns, and of course battles every so often - in this case chess mostly, but there are some other fights such as when Jön slashes the eyes of rapist Raval (played by Bertil Anderberg) in the tavern in a quite shocking scene. If "The Seventh Seal" was actually made into a video game, it would be quite an interesting turn, although one would hope there could a different ending than one the film provides... As it shows, the film influenced more than just cinema but the everything in the world of media with its storytelling techniques, visuals, and sound effects. The striking visual imagery of framing faces of subjects not facing each other, the stationary camerawork, as well as existential dialogue sequences, shocking sound effects to enhance scares are all elements that not only signified the film but went on to influence countless audience members worldwide. It might be hard to find works that were not influenced by the film in this day and age, from comedies to horror and more. Even if one had not seen "The Seventh Seal", they might have at least seen a work that took direct inspiration from it, whether it was "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" (1991) in which the character of Death challenges the lead characters in a game to take their souls, "Last Action Hero" (1993) in which a crowded theater shows "The Seventh Seal" on screen and Death emerges from the movie screen, played by Ian McKellen of all people. From the bunny in "Donnie Darko" (2001) being indirectly an influence of the Death figure, to "Minority Report" (2002) having a scene in which Von Sydow's character meets a dark cloaked figure, the homages are far and wide. Not to mention there are countless instances the film and Bergman were referenced in "Mystery Science Theater 3000", "The Muppet Show", "Family Guy", Monty Python works, etc. shows that it was an easy target for parodies and comedies. The brilliant original trailer for "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" has an excellent reenactment of the chess playing scene on the coast, only to be broken by a pie in the face and is not in the final film at all. Sometimes the parodies are out as a cheap shot to criticize the seriousness and pretentiousness of the film and Bergman's other works, yet there are others that are genuine works of gratitude towards the eye-opening works.

"The Seventh Seal" is an interesting work that can be interpreted in various ways depending on the audience. Some will see it as a dark film that is pessimistic, as it criticizes organized religion, has the moral of death being inevitable. Others may see it as a cynical film that shows the absurdities of life and death and everything in between. Some will see it as an optimistic work, as it shows characters seeing the true joys of life, from performance art to enjoying time with family and friends. When the film was made and released in 1957, World War II ended only twelve years before and the ongoing Cold War was on the minds of people around the world, especially in Europe. Filmgoers of the period would have seen the film through the eyes of the postwar as the main character of Antonius Block would have also experienced, and seen the friendship as well as distrust for others as seen with some of the supporting characters as reflections of their own lives. As the current world in 2021 is living and coping through a new pandemic with COVID-19, it is also interesting to see the film and relate to the atrocities of the Bubonic Plague that the film has in its background. The arrest, torture and killing of the woman who was claimed to be a witch in the film is a shocking moment, and can only evoke many people's thoughts with the Black Lives Matter movement, and the many people that were killed or unjustly convicted by the authorities. More than six decades after the film was released, there are echoes of the past that continue to reflect the present in thought provoking and lamenting ways.

Bergman shot the film on a schedule of 35 days on location and in studio sets with a very small budget of $150,000. Considering that all the location footage had to be rural, such as the opening sequence in Hovs Hallar and the full on period costumes, this is an amazing feat. Many of the other outdoor sequences were actually filmed right in Stockholm, but having the cameras away from the modern buildings to create the illusion of the middle ages. Bergman has stated jokingly that zooming in towards the distance of some of the forest scenes would reveal modern apartment complexes, as the cast and crew were never too far from modern conveniences and housing. A miniscule budget in comparison to the lavish Technicolor and widescreen works that were dominating the Hollywood landscape and around the world, "The Seventh Seal" was like the polar opposite of with the rest of the world, as well as with Bergman's own works in the past. It is indeed a very personal film for the director, as the themes are very true to his own life as he put his fear of death, the questioning of authority and religion, and joys of love and life onto the screen in a direct form. Each of the characters also represent a part of him, with both Antonius and Jön is both his serious and comical side, the acting troupe representing his own troupe of actors both on stage and screen, and even Death is a part of him - a figure with a strict vision of control. Knowing about Bergman's personal life at the time and his previous works will give further insight into the themes of the production, but the film works just as well without the details. For many getting into world cinema, "The Seventh Seal" is usually the first Bergman film a person would watch as it is basically the gateway film for the director's works. It firmly establishes his aesthetics through visuals and themes, and is the pinnacle of existential cinema. One would think he could not possibly top the film, but Bergman would deliver yet another existential masterpiece with "Wild Strawberries" just a few month later at the end of 1957.

While the film did not have a big reception in his native Sweden, the film was instantly hailed as a masterpiece around the world. It won the Jury Special Prize and was nominated for the Palme d'or at the Cannes Film Festival, became an arthouse sensation in cinemas worldwide, and continued to be watched and studied by film theorists, critics, students, and audiences for decades onward. It is not a film that gives easy answers, nor does it please everyone who watches it. But that's what makes it a rewatchable masterpiece.

"Wild Strawberries" (Smultronstället) (1957)

Isak Borg (played by Victor Sjöström) is a 78 year old widowed professor who is traveling from his home in Stockholm to Lund to receive an honorary prize. He is being driven by his daughter-in-law Marianne (played by Ingrid Thulin), who is pregnant with his grandchild, but is unfortunately thinking of divorcing his son Evald (played by Gunnar Björnstrand) as he does not want to have children. Along their journey, Isak has dreams and nightmares about death, loss of memory, and other signs of aging that he is unable to stop. In addition, they meet interesting hitchhikers from young couples to a middle aged couple that show differences in generations and in relationships, with Isak reflecting on his own in the past.

After the incredible success of "The Seventh Seal" worldwide, Bergman's next feature would also explore some of the same territory of life near its end, this time in a more realistic fashion in modern day, but also drawing on inspiration from the past through silent cinema as well as being a road movie. While the genre of the road movie is usually reserved for young characters traveling and their maturity along the way, "Wild Strawberries" is one that looks backwards instead. During the lengthy trip by car, Isak meets a number of people on his journey, including Sara (played by Bibi Andersson), a young woman traveling with her boyfriend and chaperone representing the state of the youth's direction in free love. Quite different from his life as he was a husband that lost his wife some time ago, the generation gap may be wide but Isak takes them in for a ride as they are stranded. She reminds him of the past, in which he remembers cousin Sara (also played by Andersson in the flashback) and how he fell in love but the response was not mutual. In one of the scarier real moments in the film, the group are involved in an accident, which flips over an oncoming car. Thankfully the couple in the other car are not seriously injured, and Isak helps them, filling the car with two more people. Sten Alman (played by Gunnar Sjöberg) and his wife Berit (played by Gunnel Broström) are examples of a married couple experiencing the downward spiral. He constantly bickers about her in a condescending way. She takes the verbal abuse but cannot stand it any longer. It's unclear if Isak had anything similar to that in his relationship with his wife, but Marianne as well as Sara look onward with skeptical eyes towards the Almans.

The film has a reflective look at life with flashbacks and with various interactions, but some of the more memorable moments of the film come from the nightmarish visions of Isak. The first being his sudden appearance in a town square where all the clocks are missing their hands, his encounter with a clone of himself inside a coffin trying to pull him inside, the sequence is in contrast heavy black and white and without dialogue with only creepy effects to accent the horror. There is another sequence in which Isak cannot seem to recall the motto of doctors even though the words are right in front of him. The elements of his past and future are colliding, with his life near its end being imminent, even if there is nothing terminally wrong with him. But with anyone celebrating an anniversary, whether a birthday or another celebration, the more that stack, the more closer one gets to realizing that there are fewer to be counted in the long run. Bergman confronted his fear of death at an early age with "The Seventh Seal", but in "Wild Strawberries" he looks at it from the angle of the aged, and wonderfully so by the performance by filmmaker Victor Sjöström. Bergman has stated that "The Phantom Carriage", directed by Sjöström in 1921 is one of his favorite movies of all time, and is one that looks at the angle of death in a unique way. Sjöström is also a fine performer as an actor, lending his hand to Bergman in "To Joy" seven years prior in a supporting role.

One of the best films to reflect on life through warmth, beauty, as well as horror, "Wild Strawberries" was another incredible triumph for Bergman internationally. It was his first to be nominated for an Academy Award in the United States for Best Screenplay, as well as BAFTA nominations for Best Film and Best Actor. In addition the film won Best Foreign Film at the Kinema Junpo Awards in Japan and the Golden Globes in the United States, plus many other nominations and awards worldwide. With the success of two films within the same year, Bergman was at his peak in 1957, though he was not to be outdone. With a grasp of the darker side of reality and fantasy, his further films would explore the themes further.

"The Magician" (Ansiktet) (1958)

Albert Vogler (played by Max Von Sydow) is a magician with a troupe in the late 19th century, traveling town to town for their stage productions. Claiming to have supernatural powers and dubbed "The Conjurer of Magic", his arrival in a small town causes skepticism from its Minister of Health Dr. Vergerus (played by Gunnar Björnstrand) and Police Superintendent Starbeck (played by Toivo Pawlo), questioning their promotion and tactics. Their stay in the town becomes longer than expected, but with sex, death, and other dark visions coming into play, the magic troupe have a lot more to deal with that their own act.

Vogler, being mute has his troupe that includes his wife Manda (played by Ingrid Thulin), assistant Tubal (played by Åke Fridell), coach driver Simson (played by Lars Ekborg), and the grandmother (played by Naima Wifstrand, Life in the Finn Woods), who have tricks up their sleeve to pull off their tricks of the trade, and there are many parallels with the players in the film and Bergman's own career as a filmmaker. The troupe produce a show for people to watch, using special effects and tricks that make audiences gasp in wonder and amusement, with each person having a specific role. But once authorities and the likes of promoters become involved, it is up to the troupe to engage in an act that even they cannot dispute. "The Magician" has some comical elements infused in certain scenes, but it is the very creepy attic sequence that will haunt viewers long after the end, with its striking dark visuals, intense cuts with music cues and a genuine creepiness that the director experimented with in "The Seventh Seal" and "Wild Strawberries" a year prior. With the differing characters placed in different roles to pull off an ultimate trick, there is a lot more going on behind the scenes that make "The Magician" closer to a mystery film in comparison to any other genre. There are twists for the characters as well as for the audience, and Bergman along with his cast of usual performers and newcomers as well as his usual crew pull off a great feat like any magician could, and with that comes one of his finer works with brilliant performances throughout.

Winning multiple awards at the Venice Film Festival and nominated for a BAFTA for Best Film, "The Magician" would be another triumph for Bergman. Though not as celebrated as his one two punch in 1957, it was a step up from his drama "Brink of Life" released earlier in 1958 to mixed reviews. His path would go down another hole of darkness though with his next film, as then in the 1960s his works would go deeper into the subconscious and challenge filmmaking even further.

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. The 1950s were an especially strong decade for Bergman career-wise, although his personal life with multiple relationships, failed marriages, and health issues were a completely different story. Though sometimes those personal issues were sometimes reflected directly into his works, especially with the various romantic comedies mimicking his recklessness with women, and his hospitalization having the effects on the darkness in life and death as seen in some of the later works. Style-wise he was becoming more comfortable in the use of long takes, framing of performers and scenery, and having them go the distance in bringing out depth through innocence and madness.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray set


The BFI presents all eight films in restored forms in this new boxset. "Summer Interlude", "Wild Strawberries", and "The Magician" are in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. "Women Waiting", "Summer with Monika", "A Lesson in Love", "Smiles of a Summer Night", and "The Seventh Seal" are in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. All films were restored by the Swedish Film Institute.

"Summer Interlude" was restored in 2K from the original 35mm duplicate negative. "Women Waiting" was restored in 2016 in 2K from the original 35mm duplicate negative. "Summer with Monika" was restored in 2009 in 2K from the original 35mm negative. "A Lesson in Love" was restored in 2015 in 2K from an original 35mm interpositive element. "Smiles of a Summer Night" was restored in 2007 in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative. "The Seventh Seal" was restored in 2018 in 4K from the original 35mm camera negative. "Wild Strawberries" was restored in 2011 from the original 35mm camera negative. "The Magician" was restored in 2K from an original 35mm fine-grain master positive element.

Although the transfers are in different resolutions, come from differing elements, and were done in different years with different restoration technologies applied, all eight films look consistently great here in this set. The standout is of course "The Seventh Seal" which is the only title to receive a 4K restoration (which also received a wonderful 4K UltraHD Blu-ray release from the BFI). The comments for the transfer are basically repeated from the 4K review. The film has been in very good shape in the many incarnations on home video over the years considering its age. This 4K restoration is excellent as to be expected, but it is not perfect. On the positive side, the black and white image looks splendid with crisp grey levels. From indoor to outdoor locations, the image looks crisp with faces, costumes, props, and scenery being finely detailed in the transfer. There are some damage marks still visible at times but they are extremely minimal, with some tramline marks and scratches being almost invisible and never intrusive.

An odd note though is with the opening sequence which a slight concern. The silent opening credits sequence with the names crossfading under silence looks to be digital stillframes rather than running film elements, so grain and damage marks are completely still. In addition, the background is dark grey rather than true black. Once the clouds and bird come into view as the first two shots of the film, there is a bit of image distortion with telecine wobble and warping. Thankfully a few seconds later, the film looks absolutely wonderful, and continues without major issues after that.

In comparison to the 2006 2K restoration that was available on previous Blu-ray releases, the opening credits were with pitch black backgrounds, and there was no issue with the opening shot of the clouds having warping issues. So why did it become an issue with the newer restoration? Another difference is the 4K restoration restoring the full title of the film "Det sjunde inseglet" to open the film. For some reason on the 2006 restoration it became "Sjunde inseglet", leaving an awkward space on the left side as the title wasn't centered on the frame. In addition, the 30 second restoration credits and film credits at the end of the film for the 2006 restoration have been removed, leaving the original fade to black ending for the 4K restoration.

Another difference is that the 4K restoration is framed at the 1.37:1 Academy aspect ratio. the 2K restoration is framed at the standard TV broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Depending on the scene, there is actually less information on the screen in the new transfer, with the bottom of the frame being slightly cut off on most shots. There are some instances where there is more image available in the newer restoration on the left and right sides of the screen, so there is some inconsistency with the new framing. Nothing too distracting. and most likely not noticeable for viewers unless the transfers are side by side. In comparison to the 4K disc which also has Dolby Vision the 1080p transfer on the standard Blu-ray still stands very tall as an excellent transfer with major improvements over the older restoration.

"Summer Interlude", "Wild Strawberries", and "The Magician" all come from slightly older restorations but they are still great nonetheless. "Summer Interlude" does look the weakest though, with noticeable scratches, dust and debris in the frame. While there is restoration applied, in comparison to other films in this set, it doesn't look as clean. On the positive side, the black and white levels are always crisp and consistent, and detail is strong. "Wild Strawberries" looks incredible, with excellent grey levels, little to no damage visible in the frame while a healthy amount of grain still being visible. The dream sequence is noticeably blown out with white levels and crushed for black levels for a nightmarish look that is intended. "The Magician" also has a good transfer, though not perfect either. Most scenes look great with the black and white levels being well balanced with details seen in faces and in the costumes. But there are scenes were the white levels are a bit strong, making faces look paler than in other sequences. Damage wise it looks extremely clean with little instances of dust or debris.

"Women Waiting", "Summer with Monika", "A Lesson in Love", and "Smiles of a Summer Night" all come from newer restorations and look absolutely wonderful for each. The black and white transfers are exquisite with well balanced greyscales, damage being extremely minimal to the point that they are almost unnoticeable, grain being left intact, and the image being very detailed. Not all are perfect though. "Summer with Monika" does have some minor damage marks that are more noticeable in the outdoor sequences. "Smiles of a Summer Night" has some telecine wobble that shakes the image ever so slightly in some scenes. Even with these minor discrepancies, these are the best the films have looked and are very pleasing for audiences old and new.

The runtimes are as follows:
* "Summer Interlude" (1951) (96:57)
* "Waiting Women" (1952) (107:53)
* "Summer with Monika" (1953) (97:29)
* "A Lesson in Love" (1954) (95:54)
* "Smiles of a Summer Night" (1955) (109:47)
* "The Seventh Seal" (1957) (96:19)
* "Wild Strawberries" (1957) (92:07)
* "The Magician" (1958) (100:40)

Some of the films have additional opening text with restoration notes, some of them have additional end credits so there are some discrepancies between runtimes of the film from differing regions on DVD or Blu-ray.


Swedish LPCM 1.0
All films have uncompressed original mono tracks from remastered original elements. Most of the films have good clean restored audio, though a few have some minor issues. "Summer Interlude" has some hiss and crackle in the audio track, though it depends on the scene. "Waiting Women" has some unusual audio mixing in which the music sounds cues sound much too loud in comparison to the dialogue and effects. "The Magician" has a consistent hiss throughout the film. But on the positive side it is not too loud, leaving the dialogue, music and effects to sound fairly good. For all other films, they are all consistent in their soundtracks, with a good balance between dialogue, music, and effects with minimal issues with hiss, crackle or other damage, Voices are clear throughout with no major complaints.

There are optional English subtitles in a white font for all eight films that are well timed and easy to read.


Ingmar Bergman Volume 2 is a 5 disc set, with the films being on the following discs:

* "Summer Interlude" (1951) (96:57)
* "Waiting Women" (1952) (107:53)

* "Summer with Monika" (1953) (97:29)
* "A Lesson in Love" (1954) (95:54)

* "Smiles of a Summer Night" (1955) (109:47)

* "The Seventh Seal" (1957) (96:19)

* "Wild Strawberries" (1957) (92:07)
* "The Magician" (1958) (100:40)

Extras are available on the following discs:


"Summer with Monika" trailer (1:54)
The original Swedish trailer is presented here. Expected are some scratches and debris with some hiss to the audio, but interestingly it is in an odd 1.50:1 aspect ratio with a bit of cropping done to the image.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.50:1, in Swedish LPCM 1.0 with optional English subtitles


"The Women and Bergman" 2007 featurette (28:40)
Here is a roundtable discussion with actresses Bibi Andersson, Gunnel Lindblom, Pernilla August and Elin Klinga who have all worked with Bergman on film, television and stage over the course of many years. They are interviewed by Swedish film critic Nils-Petter Sundgren, as they discuss the director's style, his treatment of actors, his humor, his madness, and personal recollections from their time working with him. The interview was produced and directed by Eva Beling for the 2007 Stockholm International Festival which was held only a few months after Bergman's death at the age of 89. Note this featurette is also available on the UK Artificial Eye "Classic Bergman" 5 disc Blu-ray set and the US Criterion "Ingmar Bergman's Cinema" 30 disc Blu-ray set.
in 1080i60 AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Swedish Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English subtitles


"The Seventh Seal" audio commentary by film critic Kat Ellinger
In this newly recorded commentary by critic Kat Ellinger, she talks quite a bit about Bergman's career at this time period, his personal life with his new relationship with Andersson, the Bergman troupe of cast and crew, art imitating life on screen with Bergman's own fears towards death, the folk horror aspect, the comedic touches and more. Ellinger does admit Bergman is one of her top two favorite filmmakers, and also admits that her introduction to "The Seventh Seal" came from "Bill and Ted" which is nothing to be ashamed about. She does tend to focus a bit heavily on Bergman himself, and not a lot on the making of the film itself, or with biographies on the many performers. There is the notion of the film being only 97 minutes and there is a lot to of topics that could be discussed so one commentator would have to pick and choose the topics to be discussed here. Ellinger does a good job, but maybe some time could have been divided better with more film centered topics.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Behind the Scenes Footage of "The Seventh Seal" with commentary by film scholar Ian Christie (14:50)
Presented here is 8mm film from 1956, which features Bergman and the cast and crew on location in Hovs Hallar on the southern coast of Sweden scouting locations, behind the scenes footage with set construction that were surprisingly close to modern buildings around the corner, and more. The silent footage comes with commentary from Ian Christie, who narrates about the footage as well as gives some insights into the production and the themes. Note this extra was previously available on the UK Palisades Tartan DVD and Blu-ray releases.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33;1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Karin's Face" 1986 short (14:32)
Karin Åkerblom was born on November 4th, 1889 in Hedemora Sweden. She married Erik Bergman in 1913 and gave birth to their son Ingmar in 1918. She died on March 13th, 1966 at the age of 76. In 1984, Ingmar Bergman made a short film to commemorate the life of his mother in the simplest form, by using photographs from family albums to chronicle her life from childhood, all the way to her passport photo, taken only a few months before her death. There is no narration, but instead a few intertitles, so "Karin's Face" is not a full on biography, but instead a visualization of glimpses into her life, beautifully arranged with a great minimal piano score. This short was digitally restored by the Swedish Film Institute in 2016 from the original 35mm CRI negative and the 17.5mm magnetic mono element. Note this extra was previously available on the UK Palisades Tartan DVD and Blu-ray releases, with an older transfer and is on the US Criterion "Ingmar Bergman's Cinema" Blu-ray boxset.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33;1, Music Dolby Digital 2.0 with Swedish intertitles and optional English subtitles

"The Seventh Seal" Original Theatrical Trailer (2:44)
The original Swedish trailer is presented here. There is expected damage marks on the image and some crackly audio, but completely servicable. The trailer has also been embedded below.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in Swedish Dolby Digital 1.0 with optional English subtitles

Included is a 96 page book. There are essays discussing each film, plus full film credits, stills, extras information, transfer information, and acknowledgements. The first essay is "Trauma's Rainbow: Summer Interlude" by Little White Lies magazine's David Jenkins. "Women Should Talk to Each Other More Often: Waiting Women" is next, written by film writer and lecturer Ellen Cheshir. Next is "Look Closer: Summer with Monika" by freelance film journalist Leigh Singer. This is followed by "Volte Farce: A Lesson in Love" by film writer and researcher Kieron McCormack. Critic Philip Kemp's essay "No Better Life! Smiles of a Summer Night" is next. "To the Final Drop: The Seventh Seal" by critic Jessica Kiang - this is the same essay found in the BFI's 4K UltraHD release booklet. "The Road Not Taken: Wild Strawberries" is by film critic Geoff Andrew. Last, there is "Truth and the Theatre of the Grift: The Magician by critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. Each essay has a lot of great information on the making of the films and deconstructions of each, giving great insight to even some of the lesser talked about titles as well as the renowned classics.

BFI trailer for "Ingmar Bergman Volume 2"

"The Seventh Seal" Theatrical Trailer

"The Seventh Seal" BFI Player introduction by Mark Kermode

"How's it hanging Death? - Ingmar Bergman's effect on pop culture" video essay

This makes the second time that "The Seventh Seal" has been released on Blu-ray in the UK, with the first being the Blu-ray from Palisades Tartan over a decade ago using an older restoration transfer. (Or third time if you count the BFI's standalone release of the film in a dual format 4K UltraHD + Blu-ray set released a week prior.) The BFI upgrades not only with the film transfer, but ports over all the extras from the Palisades Tartan release, adds a new commentary and gives the "Karin's Face" short a new transfer as well. As for all the other films, they make their UK Blu-ray debuts here. All have been previously released on DVD by Tartan in the UK, with basic extras like text notes accompanying each one. In addition, all the films in this set are also available in the mammoth "Ingmar Bergman's Cinema" boxset from The Criterion Collection in the US, with differing extras.


This set is limited to 5000 copies.


"Ingmar Bergman Volume 2" covers eight films from the director's breakthrough decade creatively and commercially, with some absolute classics and some interesting gems in between. The BFI's Blu-ray set features Blu-ray debuts in the UK for many of the films, a substantial upgrade for the crown jewel "The Seventh Seal", great transfers, and informative extras including a very lengthy book. Absolutely recommended.

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

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


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