Svensk Filmindustri’s head archivist Jon Wengström visited UC Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive as part of Bergman 100, the year-long centennial celebration of the renowned Swedish film director, Ingmar Bergman. PFA is one of the pre-eminent sites presenting a retrospective of all the Swedish master’s works (see Wengström also spoke on BAMPFA's celebration of another of Sweden’s contributions to the art of cinema, Greta Garbo. PFA’s senior film curator Susan Oxtoby organized “The Luminous Legacy Of Greta Garbo" during this Year of Bergman, featuring the screenings of eight of Garbo's films.
During Wengström's visit, he provided insight on both the Swedish cinematic icons, Bergman and Garbo. In an illustrated lecture, he showed some clips of early Garbo scenes, not from her films but rather as the teenage actress in some Swedish footage, as well as a clip from the 1926 visit of Crown Prince Gustav and Princess Louise when they visited Hollywood, and Garbo was their honorary hostess on the film studio lot and at a huge banquet. This was the same trip when the royal couple dedicated Sveadal.
Garbo was a pretty young woman but in one of the last clips he showed, she was utterly striking in her middle age as she posed for screen shots to be considered for returning from retirement to shoot another film.

Ingmar Bergman at work
The following week Wengström gave another very interesting illustrated lecture, "Ingmar Bergman at Work.” We can read Bergman’s autobiographies, those of his actors, and comments by critics, but we were also shown excerpts of footage documenting the making of the films. Having seen how comprehensive the notes in his logbooks were — as exemplified at the Embassy’s recent exhibit of Fanny and Alexander — one could imagine such footage helped him document the progress in rehearsals. All these records of the making of his films (and of the trailers) were donated by Bergman to the Institute.
The purpose of the lecture was to show the work and processes of the cast and crew in the production of Bergman’s films. Wengström defined Bergman’s habitual work processes with samples of behind-the-scenes documentaries from the creation of four of his films: Autumn Sonata, Through a Glass Darkly, Hour of the Wolf, and Wild Strawberries.


Autumn Sonata (1978)
Wengström explained that the 28-minute clip consists of various excerpts from the rehearsal of the film at Svensk Filmindustri (SF) in Sweden, whereas the actual film was shot in Norway. Of course Ingrid Bergman was new to this team, whereas the others were familiar with the dynamics of the process of making a Bergman film, and there were some rough patches, but in the end both Ingrid and Ingmar complimented each other about the experience.
In the clip, it was fascinating to see everyone, even cinematographer Sven Nykvist, interact while refining the performance of various scenes. The first episode showed a discussion that was particularly interesting given the legend of the tension between Ingmar and Ingrid’s interpretation of her character. In this interaction, all of them are considerate of each other, but we are reminded that Ingrid was suffering from her fatal cancer, because she occasionally had to lie on the floor while reading her lines.
Another scene staged the dueling piano duet between mother and daughter — one of the most stunning scenes of acting in cinema. But as the camera was pulled back we saw there was only a keyboard on a table and Ingmar and Sven were watching the reactions of the actresses; the men planned the shots while the women practiced their dueling reactions.
In the scene where the mother met her disabled daughter, the acting is remarkable; the performance of all three actors is a master class, even during this rehearsal. And right beside them is Ingmar, coaching them and studying each retake in process. Throughout this entire documentary we see the care with which the director nudges the performance to perfection. We see how the crew complements the cast in creating vital film.

Through a Glass Darkly (1961)
This clip was the trailer for Through a Glass Darkly, footage from the making of the film and not from the film itself. In it, Bergman comments during the filming process, making it one of the best demonstrations of Bergman’s team at work.
In some of the final scenes, the brother and sister are in the hull of an abandoned boat on the island of Fårö, where Bergman shot many of his films and built his home. The boat was washed up offshore, but cast and crew had to wade across the intervening shallow water on the very rocky bottom of the submerged beach to get there.
Unexpectedly, this segment of the documentary shows cast and crew having a great time scooping up rocks and timber to create a narrow causeway by which they could walk out to the boat hull carrying equipment. The whole team pitched in for this little project — with no discrimination by roles — which was fun and functional for the easier completion of the film.
Another aspect of the footage, showing how films shot outside must be adapted to the circumstances, is when the actors had to wait for the helicopter to be flown to the asylum. Only in the editing room was it discovered that a bird twitters and tweets somewhere outside — it was left in the film.

Hour of the Wolf (1968)
Wengström mentioned two interesting circumstances in which Bergman shot Hour of the Wolf after filming Persona. He had planned to shoot Wolf first (he hadn’t even thought of Persona yet), but Bibi Andersson, who was to star in Wolf, introduced him to Liv Ullmann and he was struck by the women’s similarities. He offered Liv a small part in Wolf but immediately thereafter took ill and was hospitalized. Shooting the film was postponed, and Bergman conceived of Persona while he was in the hospital, orchestrating the duet between the two accomplished actresses. It’s interesting to consider what was more therapeutic in his recovery: his work on the film or the medical help he received.
As soon as he was released, he contacted the two actresses to co-star in his new film, and began shooting the next week. It was also shot on Fårö. Amusingly, while Liv was elevated immediately into a co-starring lead, she had only one spoken line. This movie catapulted these actresses and further rocketed Bergman into the front ranks of European and international cinema.

Wengström said Bergman returned to Hour of the Wolf after the success of Persona. That in itself is significant, for it is doubtful SF would have given the director full support if the films were released in reverse order, for Wolf is demonic, whereas Persona is symbolically challenging.
It was already well known that Bergman transformed autobiographical situations into tightly symbolic dramas to interpret our current circumstances. But that transformation is as dramatic as a caterpillar wrapping itself into a chrysalis before emerging as a butterfly. What was fascinating in Hour of the Wolf was Bergman explaining to Ullman and vonSydow, relaxing on a sofa, how he conceived of this film: He was contacted by the widow of a fellow he went to school with—the man had become an artist, married, and for a summer retreated with his pretty young wife to an isolated island. The widow said her young husband was tortured by the demons of his nightmares, and he died a tragic death addicted to these visions and the characters who awaited him each night. She asked Bergman to memorialize his school chum by making what he could of the diary she had.
Bergman visited the widow several times as he refined the story, and a tape of the widow speaking influenced Liv’s interpretation of her role as the pregnant young wife — at the time Liv was pregnant with Linn, her daughter by Ingmar, which also must have had an influence upon this dramatization.
This was no mere retelling of the story, but rather a sensitive attempt to help his actors understand the torment and passion in this human drama, how ever bizarre from our own lives. This reporting of the making of this difficult film was an important demonstration of the care of the director for his actors as they all probed the spectrum of the human condition.
It is fascinating to imagine how this auteur—who is so incredibly autobiographical and tortured by his own memories, which he transforms into films—heard and understood this tale from the widow and the diary. Did he save his own life by creating films? Hour of the Wolf could as easily be a film of today about a family’s struggles to save a family member from an addiction.

Wild Strawberries (1967)
Wild Strawberries was one of Bergman’s most important early works, in which his mentor, the actor and early Swedish film director Victor Sjöström is the star. (Sjöström was head of production at Svensk Filmindustri when Bergman began working, writing and directing there. Later, Bergman studied Sjöström’s work annually in the privacy of his home theater.) In the documentary we don’t see Bergman because he is filming and commenting from behind the camera.
The main character is an aging professor who is reliving his life as he is on his way to being honored for his life’s work. What is most evident in the documentary is the affection and reverence the other actors also feel for this hero of their medium … because in this movie, shot several years before his death, Sjöström was himself as aged as the professor. He was quite old with a slightly failing memory but thoroughly in command of his role. In the documentary of the movie, the others make an agreement that whenever Sjöström forgot or stumbled on his lines, Bergman would ask them to repeat the entire take because of a flaw by Thulin. The gentleness of their affection for the man echoes the theme of the movie itself.

Endearing and enduring
As Wengström concluded this convincing illustrated lecture, he had demonstrated to the audience why Bergman was so respected and revered by his team. He created a cordial, collegial and comfortable atmosphere with his entire team during the shooting of each of his films in order to get the best performances from each and all of them. And the remarkable with such a team is that working together and knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses results in masterpieces of increasing excellence. The gentleness, passion and joy of “Ingmar Bergman at Work” explain how and why his team revered him so, and why his films will endure.

Ted Olsson