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Swedish Director Probed Darkness of Human Psyche
His most enthusiastic American champion was Woody Allen, who tried to mimic Bergman's themes with "Interiors" and "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy," but Ang Lee ("The Ice Storm") and Peter Greenaway ("The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover") also spoke of Bergman's influence on their works.
Bergman created a stock company of performers, including Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Harriet Andersson, Gunnar Bjornstrand and Erland Josephson. He relied heavily on cinematographers Gunnar Fischer and Sven Nykvist, who captured with unparalleled beauty the cruelty, sensuality and selfishness colliding in the same scene.
Bergman worked closely with his cinematographers to create some of the most memorable images in cinema. One such moment was the finale of "The Seventh Seal" (1957), in which a parade of characters dance to their doom with scythe-wielding Death leading the way.
Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born July 14, 1918, in Uppsala, Sweden, and raised in Stockholm, where his father, a Lutheran minister, became chaplain to the Swedish royal family.
His upbringing was filled with harsh punishments administered by his father, from canings to being locked in dark closets. His mother was an unreliable source of comfort, sometimes displaying warmth and at other times, coldness. Bergman later said his mother wanted to leave her husband but stayed for the sake of the children.
The future filmmaker cynically thanked his parents for the unhappy environment in which he was raised, saying they "created a world for me to revolt against."
Going to the movies brought Bergman rare happiness. One Christmas, he traded 100 tin soldiers for the movie projector a wealthy aunt had given his brother.
He also created a puppet theater, which became more elaborate as he needed new ways to entertain a younger sister. He put on small-scale works by Strindberg, whose dramas of tormented relationships between the sexes already appealed to him.
Bergman infuriated his parents by dropping out of the University of Stockholm to work in local theaters. He became an unpaid errand boy at the prestigious Royal Opera House in Stockholm. He maintained ties to the theater throughout his life and was a former director of Sweden's Royal Dramatic Theatre and the Royal Opera.
In 1942, he joined the film company Svensk Filmindustri as a scriptwriter adapting stories. His first original script, "Hets" (1944), about a sadistic teacher who disrupts an affair between two youths, was directed by Alf Sjoberg and received eight "Charlies," the Swedish equivalent of the Oscar, and the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
After writing and directing a series of adolescent dramas and suspense tales of varying quality, Bergman foreshadowed many of his later classics with the bittersweet themes in "Summer Interlude" (1951) and "Summer With Monika" (1953).
The first was about a ballerina who revisits her childhood vacation spot and recalls a fateful teenage summer fling. The second concerned a young woman's sexual awakening and the man who rejoices and then suffers because of her whims.