Ingmar Bergman, RIP


The Swedish filmmaker and dramatist Ingmar Bergman, whose influence stretches from the art houses to Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey and Last House on the Left, has died at age 89. His talent was formidable: His output includes such near-flawless films as Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona, Hour of the Wolf, The Shame, and The Passion of Anna, to name just a few, and even his occasional misfires—The Touch, say, which may feature the most wooden performance of Elliot Gould's career—always seemed to have something in them to admire. He stopped making movies for theatrical release two decades ago, but continued to write and direct plays and telefilms until the end of his life, as well as writing scripts for other filmmakers.

Obligatory libertarian content: Most of Bergman's films were subsidized by the Swedish government, but his relationship with the local authorities wasn't always harmonious:

In 1976, during a rehearsal at the Royal Dramatic Theater, police came to take Bergman away for interrogation about tax evasion. The director, who had left all finances to be handled by a lawyer, was questioned for hours while his home was searched. When released, he was forbidden to leave the country.

The case caused an enormous uproar in the media and Bergman had a mental breakdown that sent him to hospital for over a month. He later was absolved of all accusations and in the end only had to pay some extra taxes.

In his autobiography he admitted to guilt in only one aspect: "I signed papers that I didn't read, even less understood."

The experience made him go into voluntary exile in Germany, to the embarrassment of the Swedish authorities. After nine years, he returned to Stockholm, his longtime base.

Since we were just discussing movie musicals, I'll wrap this up by recommending the man's version of The Magic Flute. It's the only Bergman movie I've seen that feels jolly.