Theatre, 2002


A radically re-worked version of Ibsen's drama, where Bergman rounds off his theatrical career.

'It's as if Strindberg and Bergman got together over a few beers and decided to modernise Ibsen.'
Stefan Eklund, Borås Tidning

Reviews and comments

Bergman's radical re-working of Ibsen's original was commented on by many critics. Summing up Bergman's version, Ingegärd Waaranperä in Dagens Nyheter remarked: 'He is playing, of course, with Ibsen, with Strindberg, and with the actors. In his own unique way he moves between decades, dramatists and productions, cutting and pasting, contriving with just a hint of mendacity.' Several others remark on the strong personal stamp that runs through Bergman's version, drawing clear comparisons with the director's own life. Björn Widegren in Gefle Dagblad:

[Bergman] has pictured himself as a young man in the young Osvald; pictured his mother, perhaps in Mrs Alving (think of  Pernilla August in The Best Intentions) and most definitely his father in the dead Chamberlain Alving, the memory of a scoundrel in a starched collar, also called Erik, Ingmar's father's name.' 

Peter Luthersson in Süddeutsche Zeitung observes that one can discern Bergman coming to terms with his own life in the production:

Everything is here. Yet Bergman is not merciless on himself, nor even harsh. Counsel for the defence and prosecution speak with the same voice, swapping places. The true and the false are mixed together, juxtaposed. Ingmar Bergman goes just so far– but no further.

Ingegärd Waaranperä continues:

Reconciliation and comfort emerge, not simply from one point of disquiet in the play but from all its aspects, through tiny fissures in the text and the acting, springs of humour bubble forth, sudden self-awareness, human warmth and disarming honesty. This older Bergman is more contented, secure and cheerful in disposition than the young Bergman ever was.

Lars Ring in Svenska Dagbladet comments on the red clown's nose that Bergman placed on Jonas Malmsjö's Osvald: "It is hard to see this as anything other than a very personal comment from Bergman: with an oblique grin he paints Osvald as an egotistical, opinionated and Oedipal young Ingmar". Yet Ring also observes that this aspect of the production is not hammered home to the audience, but functions rather as a background reinforcement of what is happening on the stage. Many critics also see parallels between Ibsen's scourging of bourgeois mendacity and hypocrisy and Bergman's own outbursts against the bourgeois environment with which he had been familiar since childhood.

Certain criticism was aimed both at the production itself and Bergman's own adaptation of the play, regarded by some as rather self-indulgent. Writing in Borås Tidning, Stefan Eklund felt that the overall effect was not entirely successful: "It feels as if Strindberg and Bergman have got together over a few beers and decided to hot up Ibsen." None found it boring, yet many felt it to be more striking than affecting. Yet although the production was regarded by some as rather flat and not particularly dynamic, the acting itself drew admiration. Pernilla August was praised unreservedly by many critics for her strong and enlightened interpretation of the role of Mrs Alving. Leif Larsson in Västerbottens-Kuriren observed that:

[...] …although we rarely forget that we are at the theatre, something quite exceptional happens. When Pernilla August delivers her monologue about her dead husband's lecherousness, his deceit and baseness, it is as if time and space are dissolved, leaving only a woman who has been hurt, a person who in her bitterness and despair is forced take charge of her home at the risk of cutting herself off from her own emotions.

Several critics praised Jan Malmsjö's interpretation of Pastor Manders, a character not exactly sympathetic, yet one who does display a certain humanity. Angela Kovacs' bold interpretation of Regine adds rare weight the role. She frankly makes clear her intentions to carve a better future for herself, not least in the scene where she brusquely dismisses the offer of the carpenter Engstrand (Örjan Ramberg) to take up a place in the seamen's home. This particular Regine wants to create a life based as far as possible on her own terms, given the class constraints under which she lives.

Jonas Malmsjö's Osvald had a mixed reception. Some critics felt that he was over-acting, that his portrayal of the character failed to engage. The final scene, with a naked Osvald in the arms of Mrs Alving, also aroused mixed emotions. Some found the scene full of clichés and hyperbole, and remained completely unmoved. Others were not so negative: 'the melodramatic final death scene is the one which feels the most dated', writes Nils Schwartz in Expressen, "'yet instead of toning it down, Bergman brazenly goes for full-on sentiment in a pieta scene that verges on the incestuous. And the strange thing is that he manages to maintain my full engagement.'

Others describe the scene's ability to move the audience in more positive terms. Margaretha Levi in Norrtelje Tidning:

The final scene is a violent release, an explosion of angst that is so dreadful as to be almost unbearable. [...] It is at once both powerful and terrible. Engaging yet repulsive. It could hardly be any more distressing.

Writing in Östgöta Correspondenten, Gun Zanton–Ericsson sums up the final scene as follows:

The final image is utterly Bergmanesque, bold and touching: as naked as the day he was born to a life of lies, the son devours his own death from the hands of his mother.


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


  • Pernilla August
  • Jonas Malmsjö
  • Jan Malmsjö
  • Örjan Ramberg
  • Angela Kovács
  • Pia Gustafsson, Props
  • Ingmar Bergman, Adaptation
  • Michael Hällkvist, Assistant master carpenter
  • Henrik Bertilson, Assistant master carpenter
  • Ulla Åberg, Dramaturgy
  • Bengt Wanselius, Stills photographer
  • Henrik Ibsen, Author
  • Tomas Wennerberg, Stage manager
  • Anna Bergman, Costume design
  • Jan-Eric Piper, Sound
  • Pierre Leveau, Lightning
  • Arvo Pärt, Music
  • Leif Qviström, Make-up and wigs
  • Janne Kindahl, Make-up and wigs
  • Sofi Lerström, Producer
  • Ulph Bergman, Assistant director
  • Anders Olausson, Props
  • Kaj Forsgårdh, Master carpenter
  • Göran Wassberg, Designer
  • Simon Burgess, Stage technician
  • Benny Widjestam, Stage technician
  • Hanna Pauli, Prompter