Saturday, 11 October 2008


INGMAR BERGMAN IS UNQUESTIONABLY among the best known Swedes in the world. He is not only Sweden’s foremost filmmaker of all time, but is generally regarded as one of the foremost figures in the entire history of the cinematic arts. In fact, Bergman is among a relatively small, exclusive group of filmmakers – a Fellini, an Antonioni, a Tarkovsky – whose family names rarely need to be accompanied by a given name: “Bergman” is a concept, a kind of “brand name” in itself.

Swedish films, and Scandinavian films in general, are known for stark landscapes and slow pacing and the author of this image is probably Ingmar Bergman. Bergman’s way of portraying his country in his films had a massive impact in the 1950s and 1960s. Around the world the people of Sweden was regarded as brooding, depressed and consumed by guilt. And Sweden itself was, according to the American Associated Press: ”the claustrophobic gloom of unending winter nights, its glowing summer evenings”.

Then, in the 1970s, Bergman involuntary changed the international view on Sweden again. It was in 1976 that the Swedish tax administration began a witch hunt on the director, who was brought from the theater by uniformed police. This was later recognized as the work of power hungry administrators and he was freed from all charges, but he was mentally broken. Around the world, the view of Sweden as a Soviet in miniature was cabled out.

This made not only Bergman aware that ”anyone in this country can be attacked and humiliated by a special kind of bureaucracy that is growing like a raving cancer”. At the same time, Swedish author Astrid Lindgren (writer of ”Pippi Longstocking”) was supposed to pay 102% in marginal taxes. Stories like these did not only change the view of Sweden, it also had its consequences within the country and the social democratic party lost the next election after 44 years in power.

Bergman is by many charactarised as a genius. But there is only one way to celebrate the genius and that is by making his films accessible. He might be concidered as kind of a national monument in Sweden, but it is the films that is the monument. It is a scandal that they are not available for everyone to see!”

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