Theatre, 1989

A Doll's House

In his 1989 Royal Dramatic Theatre production of A Doll's House, for which playwright Klas Östergren created a new Swedish translation, Bergman followed Ibsen's text very closely but made dramaturgical and scenographical changes.

'It is fantastic.'
Istvan Szabo

About the production

The main action took place on a raised platform, in a boxlike room with high-placed grated windows, suggestive of a patrician vestibule or a prison cell. Alongside the platform but outside the main acting area, chairs were placed on rows where characters would sit down like silent observers instead of exiting the stage as prescribes in Ibsen's play text. On Hilde's chair sat a doll when she herself was not present on stage. Nora was the only one who never left the acting area.

In a combined rehearsal-press conference interview, Bergman stressed the importance of the child as a tragic figure in a collapsing marriage. (He had received criticism for omitting the children in his own film Scenes from a Marriage.

The Swedish critical consensus was that Bergman had cut certain 'dusty' wordings in Ibsen's play but had stayed very close to its core. Yet he had created, dramaturgically speaking, another play. 'When Ingmar Bergman sets up Ibsen's A Doll House, it becomes a production minted more by the director than by the dramatist'.

Bergman focussed on the psychological aspects of Nora's life and shifted the attention to a relationship tragedy. At times he turned the drama into a triangle drama between Nora, Hilde and Dr. Rank. 'Bergman does not produce and foremost, stage a play that is a debate about women's liberation. [His] subject is nature and love, the stage is as so often in Bergman - a magnetic field where the poles are eroticism and death.'

In sharp contrast to such negative responses to Bergman's Nora, one finds Leif Zern's enthusiastic review. 'Today I am not going to have any inhibitions, for what Bergman has done with A Doll's House is a performance so beautiful, so moving, so incomparably rich that I have to go back to 1969 to find anything similar in his and The Royal Dramatic Theatre's history'.

All the reviewers agreed that this was a production that allowed the performers to overshadow the play's traditional feminist theme. 'Everything exists to give the actors the greatest possible opportunities to depict their roles'.

In keeping with Bergman's increasing tendency to include meta-theatrical features in his stage productions, his A Doll's House included allusions to theatre history and to The Royal Dramatic Theatre tradition. Not all critics appreciated such sophisticated twinkles to an audience with a good theatre tradition. 'Ingmar Bergman seems more interested in talking to Alf Sjöberg and Orson Welles than with us'.


  • The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
  • Birgitta Steene, Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide, (Amsterdam University Press, 2005).


  • Per Mattsson, Attorney Torvald Helmer
  • Pernilla August, Nora
  • Erland Josephson, Doctor Rank
  • Marie Richardson, Mrs Linde
  • Björn Granath, Krogstad
  • Ulla Åberg, Dramaturgy
  • Bengt Wanselius, Stills photographer
  • Henrik Ibsen, Author
  • Stephano Mariano, Stage manager
  • Donya Feuer, Choreography
  • Gunilla Palmstierna-Weiss, Costume design
  • Jan-Eric Piper, Sound
  • Thomas Årlin, Lightning
  • Daniel Bell, Musical arrangement
  • Maria Strid-Johnsson, Make-up and wigs
  • Leif Qviström, Make-up and wigs
  • Katarina Sjöberg, Producer
  • Ingmar Bergman, Director
  • Richard Looft, Assistant director
  • Stefan Eriksson, Props
  • Kaj Forsgård, Master carpenter
  • Berit Holmberg, Prompter
  • Klas Östergren, Translation