The only Bergman film I have ever watched is Persona.
I am going through all of his major works available via Filmstruck within two months and writing about each one. I am going to watch in order of release date through the Filmstruck service.
This is a continuous article, meaning it will be updated almost daily, giving readers my reviews of each film. Some films might motivate me to write a full-length review. If this happens I will just link the review.
Further questions about how or why I am doing this can be asked via my Twitter.
Without further ado, I present my Summer with Ingmar:
Starting my marathon with Bergman’s first film Kris, which translates to Crisis. Not only was this his first film as director, but he also wrote the screenplay. I wasn’t too hot on the film, but there were some scenes involving Jack (Stig Olin) that were all around great.
I like how the film starts off as if we were watching a single episode that makes up a season of tales from this small village. The opening narrator describes the village and characters we are seeing, and then the film begins. The plot of the film is straightforward: a young girl raised by foster parents is taken away from her quiet town when her real mother from the city comes looking for her. Her real mother is accompanied by an eccentric figure named Jack.
Crisis centers on the young girl named Nelly (Inga Landgré), but the most interesting stuff is actually the characters who impact her life. The two mother figures and their viewpoints on their daughter make for some heartfelt drama, but my favorite scenes are the ones involving Jack, who falls madly in love with Nelly. The final act of Crisis only strengthens the opening narration. After all, this is just a small tale in a small village within a large world.
Port of Call 1948
Hamnstad—translated to Port Town and also known as Port of Call for American audiences—is the second film on Filmstruck’s Bergman collection and the first of his I actually consider well made. Bergman perfectly captures the scenery of the port and the visuals are outstanding.
The film is essentially about love in a port town between a sailor and a young woman with a complicated past. Bergman seems to be developing a trend of telling his story through the eyes of a young woman and how older adults affect them.
Berit (Nine-Christine Jönsson) has a strained relationship with her mother (Berta Hall), and they argue back and forth. There is a great flashback in this film that greatly captures the family strife and main reason why Berit is the way she is now. Berit was sent to a reformatory and because of that, the town looks down on her. We later find out why she was sent and for how long. Berit meets a sailor, Gösta (Bengt Eklund), on the dock. He is tired of sailing and wants to settle down in the town. Of course, they fall madly in love with each other. He later finds out about her past and her bad track record with men. This, of course, puts a strain on their relationship. His reaction and feelings seem to capture the way a lot of lovers feel when they discover the romantic past of their partners. They know they have nothing to worry about because they are with them, but they can’t help thinking about their partner’s exes. This is what I like about the film: both lovers hope the other can bring them out of a pit of darkness, but in reality, they might sink together.
Port of Call is, of course, a romance film, but the social commentary on society’s view of women during this era is amazing. Berit makes a great character study on how a fractured home can damage a child. I am not a fan of how the resolution is handled, but I still recommend Port of Call strongly. If you liked this you would probably love Lola by Jacques Demy.
Torst—known as Thirst for American audiences and Three Strange Loves in the UK—is a film about an unhappy couple. Through flashbacks and words, we discover their previous failed relationships and how those relationships molded them into the people we see before us. Unfortunately, I can’t connect to these characters as I did in prior Bergman films, mostly because of the way Bergman constructs the narrative.
Thirst is hampered by the way the story is told. The way events are thrown at the audience makes it hard to follow. You could honestly take the scenes already made and rearrange them for a more coherent story. The funny thing is Bergman’s prior film, Port of Call, handles the flashbacks far better.
This might be the shortest film so far clocking in at sub 90 mins, but it felt like the longest because what was transpiring wasn’t interesting. I appreciate Bergman for addressing things that were considered taboo—like abortions, alcoholism and cheating—but again his prior film did it so much better. Also, I noticed a dip in quality when it comes to the visuals aspects of the film, and I am not sure if this is a restoration issue or not.