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THE INGMAR BERGMAN TRILOGY

Review by Michael Jacobson

Overview:

Ingmar Bergman was a cinematic superstar heading into the 60s.  With such internationally acclaimed films under his wing as The Magician, The Seventh Seal, and Wild Strawberries, the Swedish maestro had brought a unique and influential vision to world screens that left movie fans eagerly anticipating what would come next.

Bergman's answer was a trilogy of chamber-esque pictures that represented his own personal exploration and struggle with the subject of faith.  Growing up the son of a Lutheran minister, Bergman felt the strong influence of religion in his life, but at the same time, found personal conflict with it because of his own agnosticism. 

His concept was three films that shirked the dramatic and frequently fantastic stylings he had become known for.  Instead, he opted for stories that reduced the number of characters greatly and focused on the content of the scripts rather than the composition of the visuals.  With a reduced number of materials, he set about to explore the complex and all important subject of faith...mainly the question:  does God exist, and if so, does he hear us and is he involved in our lives?

The answers are speculative.  One could watch the first two films of the trilogy and suggest that there is reason to be optimistic.  But maybe that wasn't Bergman's intention.  By the end of The Silence, we feel there's very little doubt as to what conclusion he drew from his experiences.

Yet the artistic process seemed therapeutic to Bergman.  After completing the trilogy, which enthralled some but distanced others, he seemed ready to pick back up with more stylized filmmaking and exploring other subjects like family relationships, which he touched upon as a side note in his trilogy.

Criterion's release of The Ingmar Bergman Trilogy is indeed a special event for film buffs.  Not only did they bring the three films together in one set, but they included a bonus disc; Vilgot Sjoman's made for television documentary Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie.  It followed Bergman and his creative process throughout the making of Winter Light, and shows scenes of the director at work, giving candid interviews about his ideas, the post production and even the premiere, including early critical response.  It isn't often you get a chance to watch a true cinematic master in such intimate quarters; the addition of this movie truly makes this set a treasure.

For our reviews of the three movies of the trilogy, please click on the links below:

Through a Glass Darkly

Winter Light

The Silence