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A Year: Day to Day Men: 14th of July, Solar Year 2018

Black Pants and Gray Cap

Ingmar Bergman, the Swedish director and writer, was born on July 14, 1918.

Ingmar Bergman’s film career began in 1941 with his work rewriting scripts. His first major accomplishment was in 1944 when he wrote the screenplay for “Torment”, a film directed by Alf Sjöberg. Along with writing the screenplay, he was also appointed assistant director of the film. The international success of this film led to Bergman’s first opportunity to direct a year later. During the next ten years he wrote and directed more than a dozen films, including “Prison” in 1949, as well as “Sawdust and Tinsel” and “Summer with Monika”, both from 1953.

Bergman first achieved worldwide success with his 1955 “Smiles of a Summer Night”, which won for “Best Poetic Humor” and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes the following year. This was followed by “The Seventh Seal” and “Wild Strawberries” released in Sweden ten months apart in 1957. “The Seventh Seal” won a special jury prize and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and “Wild Strawberries” won numerous awards for Bergman and its star, Victor Sjöström. Bergman continued to be productive for the next two decades.

Bergman usually wrote his films’ screenplays, thinking about them for months or years before starting the actual process of writing, which he viewed as somewhat tedious. His earlier films are carefully constructed and are either based on his plays or written in collaboration with other authors. Bergman stated that in his later works, when on occasion his actors would want to do things differently from his own intention, he would let them. As his career progressed, Bergman increasingly let his actors improvise their dialogue. In his latest films, he wrote just the ideas informing the scene and allowed his actors to determine the exact dialogue.

Bergman’s films usually deal with existential  questions of mortality, loneliness, and religious faith. In addition to these cerebral topics, however, sexual desire features in the foreground of most of his films, whether the central event is a medieval plague as in “The Seventh Seal”, the upper-class family activity of early twentieth century Sweden in “Fanny and Alexander”, or contemporary alienation in 1963’s “The Silence”. His female characters are usually more in touch with their sexuality than the men, and unafraid to proclaim it, sometimes with breathtaking overtness.

Ingmar Bergman retired from filmmaking in December 2003. He had a hip surgery in October of 2006 and was making a difficult recovery. He died in his sleep at the age of 89; his body was found at his home on the island of Fårö, on July 30, 2007. (It was the same day another renowned film director, Michelangelo Antonioni, also died.) The interment was private, at the Fårö Church on Fårö Island, Sweden, on August 18, 2007.

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