On the 100th anniversary of director and playwright Ingmar Bergman’s birth, Internationally renowned director Margarethe von Trotta examines Ingmar Bergman’s life and work with a circle of his closest collaborators as well as a new generation of filmmakers. This documentary presents key components of his legacy, as it retraces themes that recurred in his life and art and takes us to the places that were central to Bergman’s creative achievements. Searching for Ingmar Bergman had its world premiere at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. The film begins with director Margarethe von Trotta reenacting a scene from one of Bergman’s films that she was cast in.

Whether you’re an aficionado or a newcomer to Ingmar Bergman, Margarethe von Trotta’s film offers a rich sampling of his classic scenes combined with insights from his family, colleagues, and the filmmakers he influenced. Von Trotta has her own warm memories of knowing Bergman. He placed her 1981 work Marianne and Juliane on a list of 11 films that were important to him. But she doesn’t shy away from addressing the complexity of his character. He fathered nine children with six women. We hear his son Daniel observe that Bergman was closer to memories of his childhood than he was to his own children. Our appreciation of his films is deepened when we listen to interviews with directors such as Olivier Assayas, Ruben Östlund, and Mia Hansen-Løve. The critic Stig Björkman helps to place Bergman’s work in a Swedish context, and director-actor Liv Ullmann emphasizes his aspiration to write at the level of Ibsen and Strindberg.


Ernst Ingmar Bergman, born on the 14th of July, 1918 in Uppsala, died on the 30th of July, 2007 on Fårö, was a Swedish film and theatre director, writer, theatre manager, dramatist and author. Ingmar Bergman wrote or directed more than 60 films and 170 theatrical productions, and authored over a hundred books and articles. Among his best known works are the films THE SEVENTH SEAL, WILD STRAWBERRIES and PERSONA, as well as his autobiography THE MAGIC LANTERN.

Throughout Bergman’s many works, one finds variations on a central theme: dysfunctional families, blood sucking failed artists and an absent Almighty all become manifestations of our collective inability to communicate with each other. Shakespeare, Molière, Ibsen, and Strindberg were all enormously important influences on Bergman, not only in his theatrical work, but indeed the entirety of his artistic career.

Bergman’s films are set almost exclusively in Sweden, and starting with 1961’s THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY, they were filmed primarily on the small island of Fårö, northeast of Gotland. The international reception of Bergman’s films reflects a not inconsiderable fascination with a Scandinavian exoticism: inscrutable language, primeval nature and flaxen-haired women. The depiction of nudity and a “natural” sexuality in Bergman’s films contributed to their success.

Looking over Bergman’s career, another hallmark of both his work for stage and film is the recurrent company of loyal collaborators. Some notable examples from this ensemble include the cinematographer Sven Nykvist, the actors Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, and Bibi Andersson, and the costume designer Mago.

The relationship between the life and works of the artist (despite the tendency of biographical analyses to fall victim to the cult of genius) is in the case of Ingmar Bergman as inextricably tangled as it is compelling. In countless interviews and artistic representations, and especially in THE MAGIC LANTERN, Bergman repeatedly referred to his childhood and its importance for his artistic vision. A number of his relatives were also creative colleagues.

Screening at Bell TIFF Lightbox in Toronto (350 King St West) from December 7th to 13th, 2018. Tickets here.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.