Ingmar Bergman in a 1981 photo. Bergman died on Monday at the age of 89, local news agency TT reported, citing his daughter Eva Bergman. (REUTERS/Jacob Forsell/File)
When the news broke that Ingmar Bergman had died on the lonely and windswept island of Faro, off the coast of Sweden, it seemed like an appropriately tragic spot. Bergman spent a lifetime creating lonely and windswept movies: a cinema of inner life in which man was tormented by his relationship with women and with God.
He was sort of a poet of anguish (his first screenplay, written in 1944, was called Torment), whose best-known movies were existential meditations on the meaning of life. The most famous scene in a Bergman film was in the 1957 religious allegory The Seventh Seal in which Max von Sydow — part of a Bergman repertory company, along with Liv Ullman, with whom he had a daughter — portrays a knight who plays chess with Death. It’s a scene that sums up the tragic symbolism of Bergman’s oeuvre, and it defined his public image for many years: in one of a number of parodies, the heroes of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey play Twister with Death.
Bergman himself may have enjoyed the satire. Despite the austerity of his movies, he had a puckish side. When a Swedish film magazine published an “anti-Bergman” issue, Bergman himself contributed a critical piece, under a pseudonym. Near the end of his career, he acknowledged that he was depressed by his own movies and couldn’t watch them any more.
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