Swedish film producer Katinka Faragó came to the San Francisco Bay Area in November. She was one of Ingmar Bergman’s longest collaborators behind the screen — for more than 40 years — having begun when she was 17 as a “script girl” or “continuity supervisor” for Bergman. Before meeting the director, she was warned he was tempestuous and temperamental; she was advised by her boss at Svensk Filmindustri (SF) to stubbornly respond to Bergman’s actions with her own. She wasn't even mentioned in the credits of that first film, Dreams.
Her presence in San Francisco was sponsored by Consul General Barbro Osher and was hosted by Richard Peterson at the California Film Institute in San Rafael and UC Berkley’s BAMPFA. A reception was held for the Swedish guest and she gave several interviews while she was in town.
After that, as a young SF employee, Faragó worked with Bergman on Smiles of a Summer Night. In the beginning, if she might voice a contrary opinion, Bergman was shocked that a girl would dare reply to him, but that very audacity was the beginning of their mutual trust and admiration. He surrounded himself with the best professionals in his cast and crew; if he knew someone had done their best, he wouldn’t argue with them. Faragó and Bergman came to have a relationship of mutual trust and admiration.

Building a career
Katinka Faragó’s family had precariously escaped Hungary and became refugees in Sweden in 1940. There, her father, managed to secure a living as a screenwriter (one of his screenplays was the basis for the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers classic, Top Hat), so Katinka spent some of her childhood accompanying her father on sets.
Working at the state run film studio brought a wonderful diversity of projects, casts and crews. As she moved into production, Faragó’s challenge was scheduling and budgeting, but especially negotiating equitable and affordable contracts. She worked at SF in various roles of increasing responsibility, often working with Bergman and many other directors. In addition to Dreams, and Smiles of a Summer’s Night, she also worked in various capacities with Bergman on his classic films: The Magician, Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal, Winter Light, Cries and Whispers, The Passion of Anna, The Magic Flute, Fanny and Alexander, Autumn Sonata, and After the Rehearsal, as well as on Sunday’s Children (written by Bergman but directed by his son). She also worked as Bergman’s production manager, at his film studio, Cinematograph.
Faragó recognizes the privilege she had. Initially her challenge was to persevere by learning her craft and how a team collaborates. But only much later did she appreciate that she had witnessed something and someone so remarkable: Ingmar Bergman was a legend in cinema, and he was her tutor!


A master at work
During her career of more than 60 years Katinka Faragó has seen many changes in the film industry. The major difference between the industry in Sweden versus the U.S. was Sweden’s national studio system. While the American studios had their rival star systems, Bergman had his troupe of loyal and trusted professionals, all of whom became friends after working together on so many films. The other notable difference was the size of the crews: In early Bergman films, collaborators could all fit in a living room; later they would cram into a sound studio. Now, even in Sweden, she feels there are too many people on a set, let alone behind it. Then it was simpler: You knew everyone, their talents and flaws, and you could organize the shoots more efficiently.
With Bergman, in addition to his unique creativity, there was ambience. His small troupe of trusted friends created a comfortable and comforting atmosphere for collaboration. This permitted more efficient and practical work, it was mutually inspiring for everyone.
Another key element was meeting an exacting schedule. After a day of shooting, the director, cast and crew all retired only to prepare and memorize scenes and shots for the next day. Bergman studied the script he himself had written; the actors memorized their lines and all their actions and facial reactions; the crew learned where and when they would need to be for successfully shooting a complex scene according to Bergman’s exacting but creatively interpretive shots.

Shooting the films
Films were typically limited to 40 days of shooting because Bergman was on a shoestring budget. In contrast, Bergman’s last feature performance, the masterpiece Fanny and Alexander, required 127 days to shoot the TV production (from which the film was reduced) and had the biggest budget; they had five members just on production. The Seventh Seal was shot in only 35 days (considered a luxury because of Bergman’s growing stature, having been awarded at Cannes the year before). Yet even then he had to borrow money from Bibbi Andersson to shoot it.
A similar thing happened with Cries and Whispers: Other filmmakers contested that SF had given so much money to Bergman to shoot the film that he had to ask his cinematographer and three leading ladies if they would forego their salaries and invest in the film. They readily did so and were rewarded handsomely from the profits when it became a hit and financially rewarding.
The ever-efficient and productive director usually required only two or three takes per shot. He and cinematographer Sven Nykvist rehearsed Autumn Sonata (with both Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann) for two weeks before shooting, however, partly because Ingrid Bergman was new to the troupe and also because so much depended upon close-ups of individuals and duals. In The Magic Flute, all the solos and duets were performed in the Royal Opera House two weeks before shooting, to get the best performance from the singers. When filmed the singers had to mutely mouth but synchronize with the earlier soundtrack, while performing in positions that would have been more strenuous.

The rewards
For Katinka Faragó, producing Fanny and Alexander at SF, as well as The Magic Flute at Cinematograph, brought the most joy of all her Bergman films. The delight of the latter was not merely the gorgeous music of Mozart’s opera, but also the enjoyable fantasy of recreating Drottningholm Castle’s classical theater upon the sound stage. Another element of the success was that everyone knew Bergman was creating this production for children; he had rearranged the scenes and translated the script into Swedish so all Swedish children could understand it. At first musicians were aghast at this sacrilege against the musical titan, until they saw its great success, which attracted many more to their operas.
For Fanny and Alexander (1982), Bergman originally felt he would have to produce his Swedish (and autobiographical) performance in Germany, for he needed a large studio with many craftspeople. But Faragó said this could not be — such a quintessential Swedish film had to be produced in Sweden. She found the studio and located all the craftspeople, and she also discovered Bertil Guve (Alexander), the essential actor representing Bergman himself in this film. She had seen Guve in another children’s production and tracked him down for an audition. Bergman was struck with the boy’s performance and knew from the start he was perfect for the part because his emotional performance played in his eyes. Despite the gruesome middle portion of the film, which is crucial and makes both beginning and end meaningful, this classic is dearly beloved and cemented Bergman’s standing as a national hero. It was also a high point in Faragó’s career.
Observing the arc of Bergman’s long career, Faragó sees a deep consistency. There was no change in his directing methods over the years, though the actors could only improve with each film they did together. As Bergman got older, he did not work full days but the team did. While he listened more to his actors and their suggestions for interpretation, he never improvised on the script upon the set. He said he could close his eyes and listen to his actors perform and know their physical, visual performances were perfect; their facial interpretations and body movements were reflected in their voices.
After the Rehearsal (1984) was the last film that Sven Nykvist worked on with Bergman, because after this Bergman closed Cinematograph to devote himself to television productions and films from those works. Nykvist was one of Faragó’s earliest and best friends on Bergman’s sets. She met him when she first began to work with Bergman, and as a young girl she curtsied to the filmmaker. They always teased each other about that first encounter, but they also became the dearest of friends, and at times she was a confidante for him, through all the years of working together.
Faragó worked on some of Bergman’s contemporaries’ films, too. She worked with Jan Troell in producing Moberg’s Emigrant Saga, filmed in Wisconsin and Colorado — The Emigrants (1971) and The New Land (1972), both starring Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow. Troell was different from Bergman because he was shy but the most stubborn man Faragó ever met. He knew exactly what he wanted and how to get it; he was a wonderful photographer and very passionate.
Faragó also worked with the exiled Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky on his final film, The Sacrifice, starring Erland Josephson and Allan Edwall, shot in Sweden in 1988. She said all great directors are very disciplined, but when Tarkovsky announced he would shoot 123 shots for this film, that is exactly what he did … though each shot was the length of a short film.

A master dramatist
While noting that Bergman himself was proud of Persona, Winter’s Light, Fanny and Alexander, and The Magic Flute, Faragó would add Wild Strawberries and Cries and Whispers to her list. Those challenging films are not a bad starting list for anyone beginning to study Bergman’s films.
As a modern man, Bergman was also a master dramatist of modern media, in theater, film, radio and television. It is nothing less than astounding that he authored five dozen films, directed more than 170 plays, produced many radio shows and 23 television programs, as well as conceiving, scripting, and crafting most of his cinema productions. He also wrote two memoirs, several novels, and expository writing.
His themes were a great appreciation of the full and joyful life, both from a comic or tragic perspective. To my mind one of the most significant achievements was his use of performance to explore and express his own life and psychological interpretations.

Bergman's Legacy
Katinka Faragó is certain Ingmar Bergman will long be remembered among the 10 greatest filmmakers of all time, and that he is now also recognized as one of the great playwrights, composing a triad of Scandinavian playwrights along with Ibsen and Strindberg.
Among the notable characteristics of Bergman’s legacy that are admired and emulated by his successors are:
- Closeups and soliloquies. He emphasized the face as the portal to the soul or the character’s innermost being.
- Chamber dramas. His films focus primarily upon the relationships of just a few characters, exploring their psychology, consciousness and social interplay.
- Camera angles and movement. His precise angles reveal multiple layers and symbolic detail.
- Lighting and color. Light often played as significant a role as his characters. He used these elements dramatically, realistically and symbolically.
- Costumes and props. As he could afford more lavish productions, the fine attention to details in settings, costumes and props became an important means of reinforcing plot themes.
- The Troupe. One cannot but marvel at how he and his team of professionals and friends could continuously collaborate over half a century.
- Playwright. Bergman wrote all but a couple of his own screenplays. Like all dialogue, his define the character, but they are also often very suggestive of more than the character intends to reveal about himself.
- Profundity and productivity. Bergman was a man of the theater — he claimed the theater was his wife, film his mistress — that is where he devoted most of his life, and where he admired great playwrights such as the ancient classic dramatists to Shakespeare to Chekhov, Ibsen and Strindberg. He drew continual dramatic inspiration and energy from them all.

By Ted Olsson