Writings, 1949

The Film about Birgitta-Carolina

Bergman recounts the origins of Prison.

About the text

In his notes on the film, Bergman takes the opportunity to praise Hitchcock as a pioneer (several years before his canonisation by the French):

Make a cheap film, the cheapest film ever made in a Swedish studio, and you’ll get enormous freedom to shape it as you see fit.

It was for this reason that I resolved to slash costs after budgeting. To this end, the following was decided: minimise the number of studio days. Limit the amount of construction. No extras. No or very minimal music. Prohibit overtime. Restricted film supplies. Outdoor filming without sound or lighting. Move all rehearsal work outside of scheduled shooting. Start earlier in the mornings. Prevent the filming of extraneous material. Trim down the script meticulously.


Naturally, not just any film can be made as cheaply as possible. But I have a feeling that many of the externalities of the filmmaking process are given too much weight, that the organisation and technical execution of Swedish filmmaking could be made more practical and convenient.

Hitchcock has made a crucial contribution here, directing the technique of filmmaking towards a more pragmatic and compact process. I personally believe that his achievements in this area will eventually be appreciated by film theorists, and that he will be given his rightful place among the great pioneers of film.

It was in this fashion that made his most recent film Rope (banned by Swedish censors and condemned in America, not necessarily a bad thing), which is the end result of long and patient process of technical experimentation. (Which the interested party can follow from film to film.)

The method may not sound extraordinary: he does long scenes. But: he does long scenes where the length escapes notice.

As everyone knows, a film is made up of around three to five hundred small bits, glued together to form a long strip (that’s what film is, after all). But Hitchcock doesn’t make three hundred bits: he makes ten, eleven, fifteen. This requires a completely different and new way of planning a production, a synchronisation and mental harmony between director, cinematographer, architect and sound engineer which exceeds understanding. What must be achieved is namely an elaborate coordination between the movement of camera and actors on the one side, and the purposeful utility of the scenery on the other.

This arrangement earns the director copious amounts of time (and in the studio, time is money), continuity and concentration. He loses certain opportunities to cut a longueur, shorten a dead bit or fudge the rhythm. The cutting has already taken place in the camera itself, and it should be obvious that this method is not meant for the director who wants to make it easy on himself, the actors who suffer from short memories or the cinematographer with sensitive nerves.

Thus, I have attempted to adapt and practice this Hitchcockian technique. I believe that the result has been favourable. That is, you don’t notice a thing.