Theatre, 1986


The emphasis was on violence in Bergman's only production of Hamlet, themed in red, white and black.

'One of the best productions of my life, one of the most enduring, strongest, most intense and angry productions I have ever staged.'
Ingmar Bergman

About the production

'Blood is the theme of this interpretation,' wrote Ingmar Björkstén in Svenska Dagbladet. Michael Bonnesen, writing in the Danish Politiken, also described how the production emphasises violence and Hamlet's powerlessness, both personal and political. This was borne out especially in the violent final scene, in which Fortinbras' leather-clad soldiers, armed with machine guns, burst in and mowed down everyone in their way to the accompaniment of thunderous Danish rock music. This ending prompted a number of associations with a fascist military dictatorship, where morality is as notable in its absence as it was under Claudius' regime.

Bergman re-worked the original text considerably. For example, he moved the 'To be or not to be' monologue to the scene in which Hamlet instructs the travelling players before the performance of the play intended to reveal the circumstances of the murder of his father. By transposing this monologue, he emphasised one particular theme of his interpretation: life as theatre, theatre as life. Hamlet became an actor in the drama about his own life. Many critics noted this in their reviews, together with the striking physical similarity between Peter Stormare and the young Ingmar Bergman.

Bergman also got certain actors to double up in different roles, further emphasising his own interpretation of the play. For example, Claudius was played by Ulf Johanson, who also appeared in the role of the gravedigger. Per Myrberg played both the ghost, who reveals to Hamlet what actually happened, and the principal actor of the travelling players, to whom Hamlet addresses the 'To be' monologue.

In Bergman's production, Ophelia became a more central character than is usually the case. She was on the stage all the time, even in the scenes in which she had no speaking part, a dumbstruck, terrified witness to the action. Writing in Arbetet, Bertil Palmqvist noted the dream-like atmosphere of the production, in which the borders between the internal and external were erased. This was especially true of the portrayal of Ophelia, which Palmqvist interpreted as Bergman presenting the nightmare of Ophelia, 'this young person's painful experience of the world's brutality'.

The production went on tour to London and New York, where it was generally well received, being regarded as refreshingly youthful, raw and modern. Even though it did not work in parts, the overall impression was positive. One critical voice in New York, Clive Barnes, felt that 'Bergman's Hamlet is a 20th-century neurotic who, at best, is ready for the psychiatrist's couch, at worst, for the morgue: [...] a mismatch in which the characters appear bizarre, verging on the perverse'. But he did concede that, 'The performance is nonetheless full of energy that casts an extraordinary light on the play'.


  • The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
  • Bernt Olsson och Ingemar Algulin, Litteraturens historia i Sverige, (Stockholm: Norstedts Förlag, 1987).
  • Henrik Sjögren, Lek och raseri: Ingmar Bergmans teater 1938-2002, (Stockholm: Carlssons Bokförlag, 2002).
  • Per Arne Tjäder, Fruktan, medkänsla och kritisk distans: Den västerländska dramateorins historia, (Studentlitteratur, 2000).
  • Henrik Sjögren, Lek och raseri, Ingmar Bergmans teater 1938-2002, ( Stockholm: Carlsson Bokfölag, 2002).
  • Birgitta Steene, Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide (Amsterdam University Press, 2005).
  • Birgitta Steene, Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide, (Amsterdam University Press, 2005).


  • Börje Ahlstedt, Claudius
  • Peter Stormare, Hamlet
  • Per Myrberg, Horatio
  • Gunnel Lindblom, Gertrude
  • Ulf Johanson, Polonius
  • Pierre Wilkner, Laertes
  • Pernilla August, Ophelia
  • Johan Rabaeus, Guildenstern
  • Johan Lindell, Rosencrantz
  • Joakim Westerberg, Bernardo
  • Dennis Dahlsten, Francisco
  • Marie Richardson, (unknown part)
  • Oscar Ljung, (unknown part)
  • Gerd Hagman, (unknown part)
  • Ivan Ossoinak, (unknown part)
  • Michael Vinsa, (unknown part)
  • Ulla Åberg, Dramaturgy
  • Herbert Grevenius, Dramaturgy
  • Bengt Wanselius, Stills photographer
  • Salek Altauz, Fencing instructor
  • William Shakespeare, Author
  • Hans-Åke Bergström, Stage manager
  • Jan Wahlman, Stage manager
  • Mercedes Björlin, Choreography
  • Göran Wassberg, Costume design
  • Stefan Glaumann, Sound
  • Hans Åkesson, Lightning
  • Thomas Årlin, Lightning technician
  • Jean Billgren, Music
  • Christian Falk, Music
  • Eva Maria Holm-Katzeff, Make-up and wigs
  • Rolf Linder, Make-up and wigs
  • Anna-Lena Melin, Make-up and wigs
  • Leif Qviström, Make-up and wigs
  • Katarina Sjöberg, Producer
  • Ingmar Bergman, Director
  • Richard Looft, Assistant director
  • Stefan Lundgren, Props
  • Kaj Forsgårdh, Master carpenter
  • Britta Olin, Prompter
  • Britt G Hallqvist, Translation