Feature Film, 1953

Sawdust and Tinsel

A talented but rather disagreeable group of travelling circus players put on a disastrous performance in a hick town in southern Sweden.

"I refuse [...] to perform an ocular inspection of the vomit that Ingmar Bergman has left behind him on this occasion, even though I can well imagine that the original menu was an appetising one."
Filmson in Aftonbladet

About the film

Sawdust and Tinsel was the first film by Ingmar Bergman to be produced by Sandrews (the second and final one was Dreams).

Bergman in Images: My Life in Film

I don't have much to say about Sawdust and Tinsel. One could insist that the film is a pandemonium – but a well – organized pandemonium. I wrote it in a small hotel on Mosebacke Square, in the same building where the South Theater is situated. Then room was narrow, with a panorama view of the city and the bay. A winding secret staircase connected the theater with the hotel. In the evenings I could hear the music from the revue being performed below. At nigth, the actors and their strange quests partier in the hotel's dining room. In this setting Sawdust and Tinsel was born in less than three weeks. I remember that the demands of retrospective jealousy, were bridled and made to pull a loaded wagon; they were forced into productive activity. I wrote the film straight through from beguinning to end, without stopping to think or add or fill in.

The drama had its origin in a dream. I depicted the dream in the flashback about Frost and Alma [...] To express it in musical terms, one could say the main theme is the episode with Frost and Alma. There follows, within an undivided time frame, a number of tematic variations of erotics and humiliation in ever-changing combination.

Sources of inspiration

In Images Ingmar Bergman has described how Sawdust and Tinsel was born out of a vision of the Swedish landscape: 'There were some circus caravans travelling at dawn one late winter day in the neighbourhood of Gimo. The Uppland landscape there, in all its wretchedness, has a uniquely ghoulish quality that captivated me.'

Sawdust  and Tinsel is relatively honest and shamelessly personal. Albert Johansson, the circus owner, loves both Anne and his chaotic life in the circus. And yet, he is strongly drawn toward the bourgeois security he had in life with his now abandoned wife. To put it briefly: he is a walking chaos of conflicting emotions. The fact that Åke Grönberg played Albert, and that the part was expressly written for him, has nothing to do with any influence from Dupont's film Variety with Emil Jannings. It's much simpler than that: if a scrawny director aims for a self-portrait, of course he chooses a fat actor to play himself.

Shooting the film 

Shooting began at the end of February 1953, coming to an end in early June. Previous commitments did not allow cinematographer Hilding Bladh to carry out all the work behind the camera. The cameraman who took his place was Sven Nykvist, and the production manager was Lars-Owe Carlberg. Both men would later become Bergman's faithful collaborators. Sawdust and Tinsel also marked the beginning of a long partnership with the costume designer Mago.)


  • The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
  • Ingmar Bergman, Images: My Life in Film.


  • Åke Grönberg
  • Harriet Andersson
  • Hasse Ekman
  • Anders Ek
  • Gudrun Brost
  • Annika Tretow
  • Erik Strandmark
  • Gunnar Björnstrand
  • Curt Löwgren
  • Otto Moskovitz
  • Åke Fridell
  • Majken Torkeli
  • Vanje Hedberg
  • Hanny Schedin
  • Göran Lundquist
  • Mats Hådell, Albert, Alberts och Agdas yngste son
  • Eric Gustafson
  • Michael Fant
  • Julie Bernby
  • Conrad Gyllenhammar
  • Mona Sylwan
  • Naemi Briese
  • Lissi Alandh
  • Karl-Axel Forssberg
  • Olav Riégo
  • John Starck
  • Erna Groth
  • Agda Helin
  • Sigvard Törnqvist
  • John Björling
  • Gunborg Larsson
  • Gunnar Lindberg
  • Bibi Lindström, Art Director
  • Hans Dittmer, First Assistant Cameraman
  • Lars Johnsson, First Assistant Cameraman
  • Gösta Björck, Boom Operator
  • Hilding Bladh, Director of Photography
  • Sven Nykvist, Director of Photography
  • Alva Lundin, Titles
  • Lars-Owe Carlberg, Unit Manager
  • Carl-Olov Skeppstedt, Film Editor
  • Max Goldstein, Costume Designer
  • Olle Jakobsson, Production Mixer
  • Karl-Birger Blomdahl, Music Composer
  • Rune Waldekranz, Line Producer
  • Marianne Axelsson, Script Supervisor
  • Nils Nittel, Make-up Supervisor
  • Rune Zetterlund, Technical Advisor
  • John W. Björling, Technical Advisor
  • Ingmar Bergman, Screenplay
  • Mago