Human beings are a busy species and, as a result, we often indulge in time-saving reductivism when it comes to pigeon-holing our art and artists. This tends to be exacerbated when it comes to anything remotely inward-looking, experimental and emotionally-complex, which are facets which we often oversimplify as being characteristic of “depressing” art. So Radiohead are “depressing”, Sylvia Plath is “depressing”, Edvard Munch is “depressing.” Never mind the intricate layers or the emotional uplift that can be obtained by engaging with the astute observations on the human condition to be found in more ambitious art. It’s much quicker to just call it depressing. And anyone who disagrees? Don’t worry, we’ve come up with a word to deal with them too. “Pretentious.” Before I risk getting slapped with that label myself, I should add that I do understand the need for reductive labels to an extent. After all, I have a 21-month-old son, a crick in my neck and a predisposition to watch episodes of Cheers after a day dealing with shitty nappies, rather than stare into the equally shitty nappy of existentialism. But it’s these same reductive labels that stop many people from embracing art they would love by making it appear more inaccessible and overwhelming than it actually is. It took me far longer to engage with one of my favourite directors than it might otherwise have done for this very reason. It was only when Film4 put on a late-night season of films by Ingmar Bergman that I finally grasped that infamous nettle and found that, in many cases, it had been cross-pollinated with a dock leaf.

Ingmar Bergman is “depressing.” We all know that, right? He’s seen as the epitome of Scandinavian solemnity, of hand-wringing existentialist despair and spiritual desperation. I’m not here to completely shatter that illusion. There are plenty of Bergman films I could point to that would seem to superficially confirm these suppositions. But the notion that Bergman’s entire vast filmography is made up of nothing but bleak, dour tracts on sorrow and suffering is not only wrong, it’s needlessly intimidating for those intrigued by the master’s reputation. The expectation of some heavy subject matter is not to be ignored but the expectation of that being all you’ll find is a misconception that definitely requires bursting. The BFI’s stunning new Blu-ray set Ingmar Bergman Volume 2 is the perfect object to help in that respect. It documents what seems to me to be the perfect entry point for newcomers to Bergman. The eight films included here cover a period spanning the 1950s when Bergman was first gaining an international reputation. Though there are a couple of lesser-known films here, they are by no means minor works and, in The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, there are at least two films included that are regularly mentioned as being among the greatest ever made. And yet nothing here is remotely as intimidating in content as Bergman’s reputation would suggest. While there is plenty of experimentation and philosophical discussion to keep anyone with a thirst for intellectual enrichment happy, I’d venture that every film here is within the grasp of the average viewer. Perhaps not everyone would enjoy Bergman’s style of storytelling in these films but few would struggle to follow the stories he tells.

Another prominent element of this era which may surprise many is Bergman’s use of humour. At least two of the films in the set are outright comedies, with another, the anthology film Waiting Women, also featuring one entirely comedic episode among its three tales. But every single film here features some degree of humour, from fleeting character moments in the otherwise intense examination of trauma that is Summer Interlude, to lengthier passages of smart black comedy that are as essential to The Seventh Seal’s intricate web as its solemn mediations on life and death. The films are also made more easily digestible by their runtimes. It’s often customary for directors attempting to tackle weighty issues to do so across unwieldy lengths of time, whether that be in order to properly examine complex themes or simply because they have gotten bogged down in their own ambitions. Bergman rarely exceeded two hours in his work, preferring to deliver concise meditations that never threaten to let boredom overwhelm their import. Accordingly, most of the films here stick closely to the 90 minute mark.

I hope what I’ve said thus far has helped demystify Bergman for those who, like me, were initially reticent about approaching his work. But if further recommendation is required, let’s have a look at the films themselves and perhaps newcomers can pinpoint the ideal starting point for them.

SUMMER INTERLUDE

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman, Herbert Grevenius
Producers: Allan Ekelund
Starring: Maj Britt-Nilsson, Birger Malmsten, Georg Funkquist
Year: 1951
Country: Sweden
BBFC Certification: PG
Duration: 96 mins

Prima ballerina Marie is immersed in the final rehearsals for a production of Swan Lake when she receives a mysterious package which triggers a flood of memories of an idyllic summer spent with former lover Henrik. Reliving the experience by revisiting the island where it happened, Marie struggles to contain her long walled-up emotions, which have impacted her ability to form functional relationships with others.

Summer Interlude may be the film in this set most likely to play into expectations of dismal, difficult emotional coldness. In its exploration of the traumatic aftermath of a tragedy, Summer Interlude certainly presents the viewer with a lot to work through as we share Marie’s journey. But in many ways, Summer Interlude is the perfect way to open the boxset. Bergman himself had great affection for the film, feeling like it represented the moment he found his own artistic voice. The film is often pinpointed by critics as the moment Bergman came into his own, kicking off the remarkable run represented here.

For my part, I share some of Bergman’s personal affection for Summer Interlude because it was the first Bergman film I ever saw. I was immediately captivated by what seemed at first to play into my expectations of emotional coldness before offering an ending filled with subtle heart and warmth. Bergman explores several themes here, such as loss of innocence and questioning of religious faith, which he would later examine with a much bleaker outlook. But Summer Interlude opts to offer a way out of the darkness by way of friendship, trust and love. There are no easy answers delivered by a corny denouement as we might expect in a lesser imitator. Instead, what Bergman offers is a genuine sense of hope. We don’t see the entire process of Marie emerging from her torment but the final stretch very much lights the way and points us in the right direction.

Summer Interlude immediately highlights Bergman’s stylistic strengths. His screenplay is typically taut, sparing when it needs to be and boldly eloquent elsewhere. The cast is strong, with Georg Funkquist memorably oily as a predatory family friend and Stig Olin wittily moving as the ballet master. From an acting point of view though, Summer Interlude is very much Maj-Britt Nilsson’s film. Her haunted, tender rendering of Marie recalls the stunning work of Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter, as high a compliment as I can imagine giving. The crisp black and white cinematography comes courtesy of Gunnar Fischer, whose work is so crucial to the Bergman aesthetic of this era (Fischer’s work features in seven of the eight films represented here). Bergman’s newfound confidence while directing Summer Interlude is more than evident in the final work. His choices are bold and effective, with the ballet sequences beautifully punctuating the main storyline. An early moment in which the dancing is abruptly plunged into darkness by a power failure is particularly superb.

Summer Interlude is a very strong start to Ingmar Bergman Volume 2. It may not be hailed as one of the Bergman classics by everyone but for those of us of a more hopeful disposition, it makes for an interesting and refreshing counterpoint to some of his later, bleaker meditations on similar themes.

WAITING WOMEN

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman, Gun Grut
Producers: Allan Ekelund
Starring: Maj Britt-Nilsson, Eva Dahlbeck, Gunnar Björnstrand
Year: 1952
Country: Sweden
BBFC Certification: PG
Duration: 103 mins

Imagine, if you will, a terrible Hollywood comedy film with the tagline ‘CONFUSING. UNFULFILLING. HUMILIATING. AIN’T LOVE GRAND?!’ Waiting Women is sort of like that film, except with that final exclamation mark removed (and the comedic elements reduced accordingly). Bergman’s thesis for this unusual anthology film seems to be that the embarrassment, pain and sorrow we go through for love is worth it, even if the final outcome isn’t quite what we expected or hoped for. In keeping with the shifting nature of romantic love itself, Waiting Women’s three stories move from broad melodrama through quiet realism to urbane comedy, each playing beautifully off the preceding chapter. Unlike lesser anthology films, Waiting Women’s framework is also strong, as the protagonists of each story, a group of sisters-in-law, await the arrival of their husbands and share candid details of their marriages. The men in question appear in their wives’ stories but also make cameos in the others, as the women’s tales also shed light on the relationship of the brothers with each other.

Waiting Women is a very fine, entertaining film in its own right but it is perhaps most notable in Bergman’s oeuvre due to its cast. Maj-Britt Nilsson from Summer Interlude is here again but the clear standouts are Eva Dahlbeck and Gunnar Björnstrand as the couple who find themselves stuck in a lift together, giving them time to analyse their relationship and share their sordid secrets. Dahlbeck and Björnstrand have such strong chemistry that Bergman would pair them up several more times in future films, including two in this set. Though initially specialising in comic roles, Björnstrand would become one of Bergman’s most frequent and reliable collaborators, seamlessly making the transition to more dramatic roles, including the lead in my favourite Bergman film, the desolate Winter Light (not included here but hopefully a shoo-in for a future boxset).

SUMMER WITH MONIKA

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman
Producers: Allan Ekelund
Starring: Harriet Andersson, Lars Ekborg
Year: 1951
Country: Sweden
BBFC Certification: PG
Duration: 96 mins

Harry and Monika are two young working class Swedes who are drawn together by their mutual dissatisfaction with their tough, unfulfilling lives. When both are pushed too far by their employer and family respectively, Harry and Monika impulsively take a boat to an archipelago where they spend an idyllic summer together. But when circumstances force them to return to the city again, will their love be strong enough to sustain through the demands of everyday drudgery.

Summer with Monika is one of the more famous early Bergman’s but it isn’t one of my favourites. It’s still a fine film but somehow the observations on human behaviour seem to lack the depth of the director’s best work, with the film collapsing into a melodramatic and predictable final act. Somewhat inevitably, but also quite unfairly, I often find myself comparing it with the superior Summer Interlude, which can only be to its detriment. It seems these idyllic-summer-tinged-with-tragedy pictures were almost a subgenre in themselves at this point in Swedish cinema. Summer with Monika came out the same year as Arne Mattsson’s One Summer of Happiness and together the two films helped paint Sweden as a sexually liberated country in the eyes of the rest of the world, a reputation still being felt in all those terrible Swedish au pair jokes decades down the line.

To modern audiences, the small amount of from-the-back nudity in Summer with Monika seems pretty tame but it is the owner of those scandalising buttocks who helps lift the film above the average. Harriet Andersson became almost immediately iconic as the titular Monika and from hereon in was another key player in Bergman’s stock company of actors. Andersson is superb in the role, even when that final act turns her into more of a stereotype. It would be nice to think it was Andersson’s performance alone that made her an icon but the process was significantly boosted by a recut version of the film aimed at the exploitation market, salaciously titled Monika, the Story of a Bad Girl. Fortunately, this version’s success didn’t stop Bergman’s uncut, more-accurately titled original also becoming a success on the arthouse circuit and it is this version that is thankfully most remembered today.

A LESSON IN LOVE

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman
Producers: Allan Ekelund
Starring: Eva Dahlbeck, Gunnar Björnstrand, Harriet Andersson
Year: 1954
Country: Sweden
BBFC Certification: PG
Duration: 96 mins

There are certain critics who will tell you there’s nothing more awkward and feeble than a Bergman comedy. Bergman himself admitted that comedy didn’t come naturally to him, yet he continued to dabble in it intermittently for a couple of decades. I for one am glad of this, since for me there’s nothing more fascinating than a Bergman comedy, and the humour he pushed to the forefront in this small handful of films surely helped enrich his more dramatic works as he became more confident with the comedic edge he introduced in those.

As Bergman’s first outright comedy, A Lesson in Love is a curious film. It seems to take its influence from Hollywood screwball comedies, in particular The Awful Truth, whose ending is mirrored in Bergman’s equally surreal final gag. The situations are generally less batty than in the film’s American forerunners and Bergman still largely retains his identity, meaning there’s a smidge more soul-searching than Cary Grant or Carole Lombard were usually prone to. But Bergman has made a wise choice in casting Gunnar Björnstrand and Eva Dahlbeck as his central couple, capitalising on their chemistry in Waiting Women to drive an entire feature. This is crucial, as the story itself has little to say about human nature or romantic relationships. Despite its didactic title, there is no real lesson here, just the opportunity to enjoy seeing a morally-ambiguous couple mentally duke it out. If Bergman intended to make any statements about the human condition here he failed but I’m inclined to think this was a rare occasion where he plumped for pure entertainment value. In this respect, the film succeeds admirably.

Alongside Björnstrand and Dahlbeck, Harriet Andersson is here again in the interesting role of daughter Nix. In an era of massive change regarding gender identity, it’s refreshing to find an example in an old film of a character who wants sex reassignment surgery and it is not played for laughs. Nix plays a relatively minor part in the story but the character’s presence balances the film in a way that vintage battle-of-the-sexes stories rarely are and provides a warm, dramatic subplot. A Lesson in Love is probably few people’s favourite Bergman film but it’s a great first shot at a comedy which lays the groundwork for the following, more successful example.

SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman
Producers: Allan Ekelund
Starring: Eva Dahlbeck, Gunnar Björnstrand, Harriet Andersson, Ulla Jacobson
Year: 1955
Country: Sweden
BBFC Certification: PG
Duration: 108 mins

If Waiting Women was a strong start for the Bergman comedy and A Lesson in Love was a fine confirmation that he could manage the same light charm on a feature length canvas, Smiles of a Summer Night is the moment Bergman fully mastered his version of the romantic comedy. Telling the story of four sets of lovers who switch their romantic interests back and forth across the course of a summer night, Smiles of a Summer Night is a cleverly constructed, beautifully performed and ravishingly directed film whose combination of lightly-realised tones results in something close to pure joy.

Of the small handful of comedies Bergman made, only Smiles of a Summer Night is regularly considered alongside his dramatic work. Notoriously harsh critic Pauline Kael even called it “a nearly perfect work.” I recall it was one of the first Bergman films I saw and it took me completely by surprise. Having braced myself for the Swedish chilliness which every source had led me to expect from Bergman, I instead found myself grinning my way through people falling in puddles, romping in hay bails and fighting farcical duels. Smiles of a Summer Night has an element of A Midsummer Night’s Dream about it and Bergman lays out his complex roundelay with the same skill as the Bard, highlighting its potential for escalation into farcical confusion for its characters while never risking the same confusion for his audience.

Bergman’s careful introduction to each of his key characters takes some time but the set-up is as delightful as the pay-offs, with new faces and relationships coming to light just as you’ve got a handle on the previous ones. For those familiar with other Bergman films, it’s also fun to spot those faces we know from the stock company. Of course those stalwarts Gunnar Björnstrand and Eva Dahlbeck are here again (Björnstrand in his most effective comic role for Bergman, as a man who bears his repeated humiliations with a hilariously weary sense of dignity), as is Harriet Andersson in a wonderfully played turn as a saucy servant girl. Jarl Kulle, last seen as the sleazy seducer Kaj in Waiting Women, has an absolute ball as a cartoonishly preposterous Count, whose wife is played with icy-cool, though not impenetrable, poise by Margit Carlqvist. Åke Fridell, a Bergman regular since the early days, is enormous fun as a lusty groom, while Björn Bjelfvenstam, an impetuous young lover in Waiting Women, is an agonised young man whose suicidal intentions bring us the closest we come here to the stereotyped Bergman expectations, before even they descend into bedroom farce and romantic ecstasy. An interesting new addition to the ensemble is Ulla Jacobsson, wonderful as a chaste teenage bride. Jacobsson’s presence is particularly notable because she was precisely the star of One Summer of Happiness, that unintended companion piece to Summer with Monika.

Smiles of a Summer Night might be a perfect starting point for newcomers to Bergman. Though it is important to point of that its overall lightness is not typical of the Bergman catalogue, it’s an ideal way to explode those expectations of relentless bleakness too. This is a comedy that opens up the Bergman world by emphasising those lighter moments that usually punctuate his darker films, creating a joyous comedy that fits neatly into the filmography without clashing one bit. It’s absolutely up there with his finest work.

THE SEVENTH SEAL

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman
Producers: Allan Ekelund
Starring: Max Von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Nils Poppe, Bibi Andersson, Bengt Ekerot
Year: 1957
Country: Sweden
BBFC Certification: PG
Duration: 96 mins

If you asked most people to name an Ingmar Bergman film, The Seventh Seal would be the one they came up with. Even those who didn’t know the name Bergman would still probably recognise that iconic image of Max Von Sydow’s medieval knight challenging Bengt Ekerot’s Death to a game of chess against the backdrop of an ominous sky. This is, after all, one of the great films in the history of World cinema; the work that brought Bergman international renown and became so embedded in the culture that it could be parodied in a film like Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey decades later with an absolute confidence that the audience would get the reference. There are only a handful of films that have reached quite this level of prominence in the public consciousness, a fact that brings with it its own set of problems. It ensures that everyone arrives at the film with their own set of expectations and I have seen numerous people come away from The Seventh Seal completely perplexed, even angry. For those with some idea of the kind of film to expect, or better yet with minds open to any kind of film it might turn out to be, The Seventh Seal absolutely lives up to its lofty place in the canon.

The Seventh Seal differs a little from the Bergman films that precede it in its approach to narrative. This is a meditative film that leans heavily on metaphor and allegory. That said, the script is packed with event and several extremely memorable characters and though the narrative style might not be for everyone, it isn’t hard to follow what’s going on. For those who have no interest in engaging with the themes of life, death and that old Bergman favourite, the silence of God, may find it a bit meandering but then this film is not really for those who are looking for an entertainment to turn off their brain to. Again though, that said, the film is extremely entertaining. Amidst the pained philosophising and anguished mediation, there is plenty of humour and moments of more traditional dramatic tension. In fact, many people have claimed that The Seventh Seal more naturally plays as a black comedy. It’s reputation as a cold, forbidding and difficult watch has plainly been overstated down the years. There are moments when Bergman’s Death is every bit as droll as the one from Bill and Ted.

Once again, Bergman’s cast is note perfect. Of particular interest are two actors who would soon become key Bergman collaborators: Max Von Sydow, who’s stately dignity as the knight would serve him well in future Bergman roles too, and Bibi Andersson as Mia, the wife of the sprightly actor Jof. Andersson had a tiny part in Smiles of a Summer Night but her roles for Bergman would increase exponentially. At this stage she often brought comic relief or heart and warmth to Bergman’s dramatic films. Nils Poppe as Jof and Bengt Ekerot as Death are also very good but for my money the show is emphatically stolen by Gunnar Björnstrand as the knight’s squires, Jöns. After several films playing the fool, Björnstrand throws his comic weight into a dramatic role, in the process creating an indelible character who is at once imposing, commanding, bawdy, blunt and amusing. It’s a phenomenal turn and the more I watch The Seventh Seal, the more I feel like Jöns is the true protagonist.

The Seventh Seal is likely to be one of the biggest draws on this boxset, which is probably why it’s also being released separately as it’s own Blu-Ray too. While I wouldn’t necessarily choose it as the ideal Bergman starting point, those who are open to the sort of film they’ll get will likely find it a lot more fun than its reputation might have then believe it is. A bona fide classic.

WILD STRAWBERRIES

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman
Producers: Allan Ekelund
Starring: Victor Sjöström, Ingird Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bibi Andersson
Year: 1957
Country: Sweden
BBFC Certification: PG
Duration: 91 mins

Since I was a little boy I’ve always loved Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This would be at least partially down to annual viewings or readings during the festive season, which helps to render anything more magical during childhood years. But I always responded strongly to the redemption story at its centre. I loved seeing a mean old man realising the error of his ways and, in doing so, regaining a sense of peace he’d lost during his younger years. I realise not that my adoration of that perennial Christmas classic probably fed into my immediate and absolute adoration of Wild Strawberries. I remember watching it for the first time during that Bergman season on TV all those years ago. Other films earlier in the season had impressed me greatly. But with Wild Strawberries, I fell instantly, irreversibly in love.

I love a good redemption story and Wild Strawberries is like a dialled-down version of A Christmas Carol, with the ghosts replaced by self-summoned spectres of the past; memories, dreams, nightmares. Our Scrooge figure is Professor Isak Borg, an egotistical recluse who’s coldness towards his family has kept them at arms length. Due to his son’s presumably inherited emotional distance and morose outlook, Isak has reluctantly opened up his home to his daughter-in-law Marianne, though the two have an icy relationship. When Marianne joins Isak on a long car journey to be awarded an honorary degree, their relationship starts to thaw as they candidly share their problems, feelings and thoughts. Concurrently, Isak is prompted into long-buried remembrances by a series of hitchhikers who remind him of faces and experiences from his own past.

Wild Strawberries manages to pack a life’s worth of self-evaluation into a slender 90 minutes, making room for a genuinely heartwarming platonic relationship at its centre and comedic interludes courtesy of a group of young hitchhikers who bring a vivacious energy to the journey. This energy is largely thanks to Bibi Andersson, whose playful, forthright take on the character of Sara (a dual role, as she also plays the role of one of Isak’s early loves, also named Sara) is the lifeblood of Wild Strawberries. Legendary silent-cinema veteran Victor Sjöström is moving in the central role of the Professor and Ingrid Thulin, who quickly became another key Bergman regular, is just wonderful as Marianne. Thulin has a poise and dignity that makes the troubled Marianne a refreshingly far cry from stereotypically histrionic representations of women in faltering marriages that littered films of this era. Her performance is mesmerising, quite apart from the fact that she is one of the most beautiful screen actresses of any decade. Other Bergman regulars Gunner Björnstrand and Max Von Sydow are also here in much smaller roles, highlighting the prestige that Bergman was accruing by this stage.

Though Thulin and Andersson emerge triumphant in the acting stakes, Wild Strawberries is one film where the writing and direction of Bergman himself are very clearly the star. The warm, melancholy, empathetic screenplay is brought to life with admirable restraint, with dream sequences better evoking the strangeness of the unconscious mind by having their surreal details writ small. It’s a far cry from Hitchcock’s showy dive into the slumbering mind in the previous decade’s Spellbound. Wild Strawberries is quietly, unassumingly didactic. To see it is to begin looking back over your own life thus far but Bergman doesn’t so much prod us in a specific direction as flag up the value of self-assessment and not leaving it too late. Though it may cause viewers to feel a sense of sadness, Wild Strawberries also leaves us on a hopeful, satisfying note that is further fodder for those who would challenge Bergman’s reputation as an arch miserableist. I just adore it.

THE MAGICIAN

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman
Producers: Allan Ekelund
Starring: Max Von Sydow, Ingird Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bibi Andersson
Year: 1958
Country: Sweden
BBFC Certification: PG
Duration: 107 mins

Neither as well-known or highly regarded as the films that come directly before it in this boxset, The Magician may seem like it is doomed to be an anticlimactic closer. Not so! Even after the one-two punch of The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, The Magician feels instantly like an underrated masterpiece and a film that demands reappraisal. In terms of being the perfect ensemble to demonstrate the Bergman stock company encountered throughout this release, it is also the ideal note to end on. Though sadly Eva Dahlbeck, Maj-Britt Nilsson and Harriet Andersson are all absent, The Magician’s large cast includes Max Von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Lars Ekborg, Åke Fridell and Death himself, Bengt Ekerot. There are other previous Bergman collaborators I’ve not mentioned yet, such as Naima Wifstrand (in a terrific turn as a mischievous old crone) and Gertrud Fridh, as well as future Bergman regulars Birgitta Pettersson and Erland Josephson. It’s an absolute cornucopia of talent and Bergman’s clever screenplay and atmospheric direction doesn’t waste a single one of them.

Albert Vogler is a mysterious, mute magician who leads a ragtag band of misfit performers who claim to have supernatural abilities, including his sinister grandmother Granny; Mr. Aman, a Woman masquerading as a man; the verbose showman Tubal and the party’s coach driver, Stimson. Arriving in a small town, the group is met by Consul Egerman and his wife. Though they profess an interest in the occult, several other town officials question the validity of the performer’s claims and determined to put them to the test. Cajoled into staying the night, as a storm brews outside the group and the members of the household have a series of encounters that range from comic to heartbreaking, morally testing to actively terrifying.

The Magician plays to almost every strength Bergman has demonstrated thus far. It is at once a comedy, a drama, a mediation on life and death, a self-evaluation, and even, in a climactic scene that recalls the famous denouement of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Diabolique, a horror. The film moves effortlessly from moments of eerie existentialism through lowbrow comedy involving love potions and bed-hopping, to moments of intense despair and moral anguish. Bergman keeps the morality of the whole thing blurry. Though the high-handed attitude of the town officials pushes us to root for Albert and his associates, subsequent developments make us question those allegiances. The Magician is a classic example of a film that makes you think while keeping you constantly entertained. It’s one of Bergman’s most packed narratives and his uncluttered direction pulls all its threads together beautifully. A real underrated treasure.

Although he had a few comedies left in him, Bergman’s dramatic work following The Magician noticeably darkens, from the rape-revenge drama of The Virgin Spring through the Silence of God trilogy into grim visions like Shame and Hour of the Wolf and challenging experiments like Persona. These are all films that demand to be seen but could be off-putting for newcomers. I would strongly recommend the Ingmar Bergman Volume 2 boxset as the perfect introduction to Bergman. It contains his most playful, palatable films without skimping on the existentialist angst for which the director is best known. It’s an absolutely superb set.

Ingmar Bergman Volume 2 is released by BFI on Blu-Ray on 8 November 2021. Special features are as follows:

Audio commentary on The Seventh Seal by film critic and editor-in-chief of Diabolique magazine, Kat Ellinger

Karin’s Face (1984, 15 mins): Ingmar Bergman’s short film based on pictures from his personal photo album, particularly those of his mother, Karin

Behind the scenes footage from The Seventh Seal (1956, 15 mins): rare silent footage with optional audio commentary by film scholar Ian Christie

The Women and Bergman (2007, 29mins): Eva Beling’s documentary featuring Bibi Anderson, Gunnel Lindblom, Pernilla August and Elin Klinga

Original trailers (Summer With Monika and The Seventh Seal)

100-page Perfect-bound book featuring new essays by David Jenkins, Ellen Cheshire, Leigh Singer, Kieron McCormack, Philip Kemp, Jessica Kiang, Geoff Andrew and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Newly commissioned artwork by Andrew Bannister

Limited edition of 5,000 units

Ingmar Bergman Volume 2
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