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Last Updated: Monday, 30 July 2007, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
Obituary: Ingmar Bergman
Ingmar Bergman
Ingmar Bergman's films tackled profound questions
Ingmar Bergman, who has died aged 89, was known as "the poet of the cinema".

One of his most acclaimed films, Fanny and Alexander, evoked the joys and terrors of the childhood that shaped his imagination.

He said it summed up his life as a film-maker, with its young hero discovering a love of the arts from a toy theatre, as the director himself had done.

Theatre and film offered an escape from a home life where personal feelings were suppressed.

He was born in 1918 and his father was Lutheran chaplain to the Swedish royal family and a strict disciplinarian.

Bergman used to help a local projectionist with film screenings, and went on to train as an actor and director at the University of Stockholm.

He became director of the Helsingborg City Theatre in 1944, the same year that saw his first film script, Frenzy, brought to the big screen by Alf Sjoberg.

Bergman went on to be a leader of the so-called "auteur" directors, whose films featured a personal visual style, tackling profound questions about love, death and God.

The young Ingmar Bergman
As a child, Bergman had a toy theatre
His directorial debut came in 1946 with Crisis, the first of more than 50 films he directed.

But it was not until the appearance of two tales of all-consuming love affairs - Summer Interlude in 1951 and Summer with Monika in 1953 - that his cinematic work was celebrated.

His career also enjoyed many lighter moments, and 1955's Smiles of a Summer Night was a comedy of sexual manners.

His reputation was confirmed by the international art-house hit The Seventh Seal in 1957.

Set during the era of the great plague, a knight played by Max von Sydow fends off death in a game of chess.

Bergman said he was "terribly scared of death" at the time.

Fanny and Alexander
Fanny and Alexander became a cinematic classic
The film, currently back in cinemas to celebrate its 50th anniversary, was said to echo modern fears of a nuclear holocaust and became an arthouse classic.

He won his first Oscar for best foreign film in 1961 with The Virgin Spring, based on a 13th-Century Swedish ballad about a family taking revenge for their daughter's murder.

Bergman, who managed to maintain a parallel career in theatre, was also fascinated by mental breakdown.

He examined it closely in films such as Through a Glass Darkly, which won a best foreign film Oscar in 1962 and explored the effect of schizophrenia on both the patient and their family.

Face to Face, made in 1976, depicted the nervous breakdown of a psychiatrist, and starred Liv Ullmann in a much-acclaimed performance.

Bergman himself suffered a mental breakdown not long afterwards.

A youthful Ingmar Bergman directing
He was leader of the "auteur directors"
On one occasion, a critic savaged Bergman's films in a magazine. Not until later did the director reveal himself as the author.

His personal life was problematic - he was married five times and his films often starkly examined the tensions between married couples.

Ullmann was one of several actresses with whom the director formed relationships and she starred in the famous Scenes from a Marriage.

He fathered eight children with his wives and mistresses, including one who only found out that she was Bergman's daughter when she was 22 years old.

He remained popular throughout the 1970s, celebrating his love of musical theatre in 1975 in his film of Mozart's Magic Flute.

But in 1976 he was arrested for tax evasion. Although the charge was later dismissed, it was said to have contributed to his mental problems.

Liv Ullmann
Actress Liv Ullmann had a daughter with Bergman
Bergman took refuge in a mental health clinic before seeking exile in Germany for a decade, where he made several films.

On his return to Sweden, he announced his retirement and made Fanny and Alexander as his swansong.

Told from the perspective of two children who suffer when their mother remarries a clergyman, the film is more warm-hearted and sentimental than Bergman's austere earlier work.

The cinematic version, cut down from a five-hour long TV mini-series, earned a third best foreign film Oscar in 1982.

With film-making behind him, Bergman continued to work in theatre and television, with his last work, Saraband, shown on Swedish public television in December 2003.

When it aired, almost a million Swedes - or one in nine - watched the family drama, which was based on the two main characters from his previous TV series, Scenes From a Marriage.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Clips from Bergman's films and plays



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