“Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.”—Ingmar Bergman.
Ingmar Bergman, the Swedish director who won three Academy Awards throughout his career, is considered by many to be one of the most influential filmmakers of all time.
Acclaimed film critic Philip French once described Bergman as “one of the greatest artists of the 20th century,” adding that the Swede “found in literature and the performing arts a way of both recreating and questioning the human condition”.
In a career that spanned six decades, Bergman directed well over sixty films and documentaries which were given a prime cinematic release. His pictures such as The Virgin Spring, Through a Glass Darkly and Fanny and Alexander, are considered to be some of the most accomplished films ever made. When discussing the impact and legacy set by Bergman, Martin Scorsese once said: “If you were alive in the ’50s and the ’60s and of a certain age, a teenager on your way to becoming an adult, and you wanted to make movies, I don’t see how you couldn’t be influenced by Bergman.”
Scorsese continued: “It’s impossible to overestimate the effect that those films had on people. It’s not that Bergman was the first film artist to confront serious themes. It’s that he worked in a symbolic and emotional language that was serious and accessible. He was young, he was setting an incredible pace, but he was looking at memory, old age, the reality of death, the reality of cruelty, and it was so vivid. So dramatic.”
While some of cinema’s leading names credit Bergman as an influence, the Swedish filmmaker was never afraid to discuss the fellow colleagues that had influenced his own vision of the film. “When a film is not a document, it is a dream,” Bergman once said.
“That is why Tarkovsky is the greatest of them all. He moves with such naturalness in the room of dreams. He doesn’t explain. He is a spectator, capable of staging his visions in the most unwieldy but, in a way, the most willing of media. All my life I have hammered on the doors of the rooms in which he moves so naturally.” So it should come as little surprise that the first name on the top of Bergman’s list is Tarkovsky himself, his feature film Andrei Rublev kicking things off.
Below, find a list of 11 films that Bergman picked out as his favourites while he was taking part in the Göteborg Film Festival in 1994.
Ingmar Bergman’s 11 favourite films:
- Andrei Rublev – Andrei Tarkovsky, 1971.
- The Circus – Charlie Chaplin, 1928.
- The Conductor – Andrzej Wajda, 1980.
- Marianne and Juliane – Margarethe von Trotta, 1981.
- The Passion of Joan of Arc – Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928.
- The Phantom Carriage – Victor Sjöström, 1921.
- Port of Shadows – Marcel Carné, 1938.
- Raven’s End – Bo Wilderberg, 1963.
- Rashomon – Akira Kurosawa, 1950.
- La strada – Federico Fellini, 1954.
- Sunset Boulevard – Billy Wilder, 1950.
“When we experience a film, we consciously prime ourselves for illusion,” Bergman once said. “Putting aside will and intellect, we make way for it in our imagination. The sequence of pictures plays directly on our feelings. Music works in the same fashion; I would say that there is no art form that has so much in common with film as music. Both affect our emotions directly, not via the intellect. And film is mainly rhythm; it is inhalation and exhalation in continuous sequence. Ever since childhood, music has been my great source of recreation and stimulation, and I often experience a film or play musically.”
Adding: “People ask what are my intentions with my films — my aims. It is a difficult and dangerous question, and I usually give an evasive answer: I try to tell the truth about the human condition, the truth as I see it. This answer seems to satisfy everyone, but it is not quite correct. I prefer to describe what I would like my aim to be. There is an old story of how the cathedral of Chartres was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Then thousands of people came from all points of the compass, like a giant procession of ants, and together they began to rebuild the cathedral on its old site. They worked until the building was completed — master builders, artists, labourers, clowns, noblemen, priests, burghers. But they all remained anonymous, and no one knows to this day who built the cathedral of Chartres.”
One of a kind.