11 May 2012

Film history according to Bergman


Having an interest in film is perhaps not so unusual for a filmmaker. In Bergman's case, however, 'interest' is a definite understatement.

'Not until 1949, when I travelled abroad for the first time and spent two months in Paris, where I raced to the Cinémathèque Française on Rue de Messine, did I begin to seriously study film.'
Ingmar Bergman

Bergman's cinema

A high point in Ingmar Bergman's life took place on 14 July 1975. On this day, his 57th birthday, he indulged in his very own cinema. Since his childhood days of hurrying to Slotts Cinema in Uppsala and Fågel Blå Cinema in Stockholm, his fascination with moving imagery resembled more of a passion than just a mere interest. 


Teckning av Ingmar Bergman, c:a 1934.

© Stiftelsen Ingmar Bergman

When describing, in The Magic Lantern, how he built his first cinema in his nursery wardrobe, he becomes so excited that he loses the plot:

Then I turned the handle! It is impossible to describe this. I can't find words to express my excitement. But at any time I can recall the smell of the hot metal, the scent of mothballs and dust in the wardrobe, the feel of the crank against my hand. I can see the trembling rectangle on the wall.

I turned the handle and the girl woke up, sat up, slowly got up, stretched her arms out, swung round and disappeared to the right. If I went on turning, she would again lie there, then make exactly the same movements all over again.

She was moving.

When he did eventually build his own actual cinema as a distinguished, successful, middle-aged film director, it came as no surprise that he called it 'The Cinematograph'.

Självbiografi 1939

Bergmans självbiografi (i flera hänseenden) anno 1939.

© Stiftelsen Ingmar Bergman

This was not your average home cinema. In an old wooden barn in the village of Dämba in Fårö, he had a fully-functioning cinema built, equipped with two 35-mm and one 16-mm projectors.

From May to October, he watched at least one film a day, six days a week. His daughter Lena calculated that he must have logged 8,000 hours in The Cinematograph.

Bergman's housekeeper handled the logistics and worked as the projectionist. Borrowing films from various Swedish film distributors and the Swedish Film Institute, Bergman enjoyed afternoons on his own or in the company of others. Moreover, he possessed possibly Sweden's largest private cinematheque in terms of film prints in various formats. 

Rolfs lista 1991

Rolfs lista 1991. Rolf Lindfors var chef för Svenska Filminstitutets filmarkiv; detta är första sida av fem av det årets önskelista.

© Stiftelsen Ingmar Bergman

The Cinematograph's repertoire was varied, to say the least. Bergman watched everything. In July of 1981, according to his viewing journal, he watched such contemporary films as Tess, Young Frankenstein, Dressed to Kill, Stalker and The Shining, while also taking in such classics as the original Frankenstein and Love and Journalism. He also often watched his own films.

Visningsjournal juli 1981

Ur visningsjournal juli 1981.

© Stiftelsen Ingmar Bergman

When Bergman voiced his opinions on his colleagues' work – both present and past – he was more knowledgable than most. His taste, however, can certainly be disputed. A number of his lists and other thoughts are included on the left of this page, to either agree or disagree with, quite often to marvel at. Did he like it? How could he not like it? And so forth.

Brev 1930

I ett brev till föräldrarna från sin sommarvistelse hos mormodern i Uppsala berättar den tolvårige Bergman att han har köpt en ny kinematograf.

© Stiftelsen Ingmar Bergman


  • Ingmar Bergmans Arkiv
  • Jan Aghed, "När Bergman går på bio", Sydsvenska Dagbladet, 12 maj 2002.
  • Stig Björkman, Torsten Manns och Jonas Sima, Bergman om Bergman.
  • Ingmar Bergman, "Filmen om Birgitta-Carolina", Stockholms-Tidningen, 18 mars, 1949.
  • Olivier Assayas och Stig Björkman, Tre dagar med Bergman.
  • Ingmar Bergman, Laterna magica, Stockholm: Norstedts, 1987.
  • Bergmans lista / Bergman's List, Göteborg: Filmkonst, 1994.
  • Bergmans 1900-tal: En hyllning till svensk film, från Victor Sjöström till Lukas Moodysson, Göteborg: Göteborg Film Festival, 2000.
  • Ingmar Bergman, Bilder, Stockholm: Norstedts, 1990.
  • Ingmar Bergman, Kommentar till Serie Ö, Cinemateket/Svenska Filminstitutet, 1973.