Winter Light: A Tribute to Ingmar Bergman at the Harvard Film Archive

Throughout the course of his life, Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007) was characterized by many as a director for the despondent, one interested only in intense psychodrama and religious or Freudian symbolism, and for the average movie buff with limited familiarity with his body of work, that would be a seemingly justifiable remembrance. In his most popular and well-known films such as The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, Bergman used religious imagery that paradoxically portrayed a godless world. But what may often be overlooked about his prolific career, which spanned five decades, is the fact that many of his films focused on elements he is not commonly associated with—heart, humor, and hope.

It is the intention of the Harvard Film Archive to present Winter Light: A Tribute to Ingmar Bergman with the purpose of opening up viewers to Bergman’s entire oeuvre as well as laying a foundation for those who are new to his work. The tribute will take place January 11-14 and will include both masterpieces and rarities, uniquely avoiding films with which the director is most often associated.

With roughly fifty films to his credit, it’s hard to find one that sums up Bergman’s style, so the following are three films that will be screened and provide a very basic overview of his works. Shot at very different points in his career, these films, when watched sequentially, highlight Bergman’s range and natural progression as an artist both stylistically and thematically.

Summer Interlude (1951)
Friday, January 11th at 7 pm; 96 minutes

Bergman’s first film with a female protagonist marked a new maturity in the young director’s work. “(Sommarlek)…was my first film in which I felt I was functioning independently, with a style of my own, making a film all of my own.” The story revolves around a dancer as she reads the diary of an old boyfriend now dead, and memories of the summer they spent together come flooding back. Summer Interlude fits well with Bergman’s early comedies that share a theme of the magic of the summer season before the encroachment of winter.

Winter Light (1963)
Friday, January 11th at 9 pm; 80 minutes

A parish pastor suffering emotional turmoil fails to offer spiritual guidance to a suicidal fisherman, and is also unable to find passion for his mistress who longs to marry him. When he is abandoned by his parishioners, the pastor finds himself giving his oration to an emptied church, in a statement about doing one’s duty even if it seems meaningless. This film is often grouped with Through a Glass, Darkly and The Silence for their shared theme of the silence of God.

From the Life of Marionettes (1980)
Monday, January 14th at 7 pm; 104 minutes

Made in Germany after Bergman was exiled from Sweden for avoiding tax evasion charges, this film is a tale of tortured relationships that lead to sexual obsession and murder. The film opens with a killing (in color), then backs up for a series of scenes (in black and white) explaining what led to the crime. The film contains elements from the old German masters as well as acknowledgment of the New German Cinema.

The remaining films being screened are Sawdust and Tinsel; Through a Glass, Darkly; The Magic Flute; In the Presence of a Clown; The Virgin Spring; and The Face (also known as The Magician).