Ingmar Bergman: an Annotated Webliography and Top 10 Quotes


It's been exactly two years since Ingmar Bergman passed away at the age of 89, leaving us with dozens of films, many of which are considered among the greatest ever made. On the anniversary of his death, it's my privilege to present a compilation of the most valuable resources on Bergman available online, as well as ten of the most illuminating quotes about him, from filmmakers, scholars, and Bergman himself.

This array of information was compiled by a longtime friend on the IMDb Classic Film Boards who goes by the handle Antonius Block. Back when I was a regular on those boards Antonius was widely regarded as the person to go to about all things Bergman. Back then I was a bit of a Bergman naysayer, and Antonius patiently weathered many a row with me over some of his favorite films. Over time I've come to appreciate Bergman's special qualities, much of which is reflected in the links and text that Antonius has resourcefully assembled:

When Kevin asked me recently if I would compile an annotated 'webliography' of web resources and quotes by and about Ingmar Bergman for Shooting Down Pictures, my answer was a resounding yes. As it turns out, that initial enthusiasm somewhat exceeded my findings. While there are indeed a couple of excellent websites devoted to sharing useful information about Bergman, much of what I found doesn't seem worth including here. Other resources I've used in the past have disappeared, or become seemingly defunct, like the Ingmar Bergman Yahoo Group ( At any rate, my hope is that by paring away some of these lesser resources, this webliography will be more useful -- a fundamental quality that Bergman always wished his own films to be.


Ingmar Bergman: Face to Face ( came to fruition in 2005 through the dedication of the Ingmar Bergman Foundation, an independent body that Bergman himself initiated a few years earlier by donating his personal archive to the Swedish Film Institute. In addition to extensive notes about his film and theater work, it contains a comprehensive listing of Bergman's writings (books and articles, although the full text of most is not supplied) and a listing of all current stage productions of his plays being performed around the world. Most interesting is the "Universe" section, filled with short essays that tie together the many repeated themes and motifs in Bergman's work. The site also contains selected digitized documents from the Ingmar Bergman Archives -- pieces of original manuscripts, set designs, shot breakdowns, letters -- and claims it is working on making more documents from the archives available.

Portions of The Ingmar Bergman Archives were turned into a 592-page book of the same name, edited by Paul Duncan and Bengt Wanselius and published in 2008 by Taschen. Partly due to the $200 price tag, Taschen initially allowed anyone to leaf through the entire book digitally on their website, but unfortunately this feature no longer seems to be available. (It still seems worth mentioning, in case it ever returns.)

Additionally, one can search the archives (in Swedish) here (, although the results only include bibliographic information.

More information about The Ingmar Bergman Foundation can be found on their website (

Bergmanorama: The Magic Works of Ingmar Bergman ( features a good assortment of image galleries, multimedia clips, and comprehensive details on Bergman's prolific film, theater, television, and even radio work, which are neatly compiled into a personal chronology spanning his life and work in all four mediums. But the most noteworthy section of this site is its selection of interviews with and essays about Bergman (somewhat hidden, at least in the current design, halfway down the "Profile" page in a small red "Commentary" box). There is also contact and pricing information for staging Bergman's plays.

Online film journals such as Senses of Cinema and Bright Lights Film Journal have published numerous essays on Bergman's film work. Some of the more noteworthy examples include:

On Bergman Ingmar Bergman by Hamish Ford, part of the "Great Directors" series ( Through a Glass Darkly: Bergman as Critical and Cultural Bellwether by Richard Shaw (

On Specific Films The Child Archetype in Bergman's Fanny and Alexander by Arthur Rankin ( der.html) Bergman vs. Bergman: Ingrid Dearest in Ingmar's Autumn Sonata by Dan Callahan ( Marriage as Cinematic Movement, Or Loving the Face in Close-Up: Scenes from a Marriage by Kristi McKim ( html) Cries and Whispers by Marco Lanzagorta ( rs.html) In Love with Liv who Loves Life: Surviving Ingmar Bergman's Hour of the Wolf by Gordon Thomas ( The Silence by Hamish Ford ( Winter Light by Dan Harper ( l) The Virgin Spring by Martin Bamber ( ml) The Seventh Seal by Darragh O’Donoghue ( l) Smiles of a Summer Night by Pedro Blas Gonzalez ( er-night.html) Summer With Monika by Hamish Ford ( ml)

This may seem a bit obvious, but there is a wealth of digitized print resources available on Bergman through Google Books ("ingmar+bergman"&as_brr= 3). Admittedly, most of these do not contain the full text, but many contain much of it. Short of having access to a print library, this is the next best thing, and the ability to search inside the text makes finding specific informational nuggets easier to locate.

Along the same lines, one can gain access to hundreds of full text journal articles about Bergman and his work by accessing premium research databases such as Ebsco's Academic Search Premier or Proquest's Magazine Index. Most public libraries will have access to these; some may have access to even more specific film-related databases. All you need is a library card.

There is no shortage of DVD review sites, but DVD Beaver gets special mention here for grouping all of their reviews and comparisons of Bergman's films on DVD and Blu-Ray in one central place. (


The following is a selection of quotes by and about Bergman which suggest various and at times competing ways of approaching his film work. In the spirit of brevity, I've limited this section to a total of ten quotes (five by and five about Bergman).

In his own words

"No other art-medium–neither painting nor poetry–can communicate the specific quality of the dream as well as the film can. When the lights go down in the cinema and this white shining point opens up for us, our gaze stops flitting hither and thither, settles and becomes quite steady. We just sit there, letting the images flow out over us. Our will ceases to function. We lose our ability to sort things out and fix them in their proper places. We're drawn into a course of events–we're participants in a dream. And manufacturing dreams, that's a juicy business." -Ingmar Bergman (Bergman on Bergman, 1973)

"We're saved not by God, but by love. That's the most we can hope for. Each film, you see, has its moment of contact, of human communication: the line "Father spoke to me," at the end of Through a Glass Darkly; the pastor conducting the service in the empty church for Marta at the end of Winter Light; the little boy reading Ester's letter on the train at the end of The Silence. A tiny moment in each film but the crucial one. What matters most of all in life is being able to make that contact with another human. Otherwise you are dead, like so many people today are dead. But if you can take that first step toward communication, toward understanding, toward love, then no matter how difficult the future may be–and have no illusions, even with all the love in the world, living can be hellishly difficult–then you are saved. This is all that really matters, isn't it? -Ingmar Bergman (Playboy Interview, 1964)

"It is fairly obvious that the cinema became my means of expression. I made myself understood in a language that bypassed the words–which I lacked–and music–which I did not master–and painting, which left me indifferent. With cinema, I suddenly had an opportunity to communicate with the world around me in a language that is literally spoken from soul to soul in phrases that escape the control of the intellect in an almost voluptuous way." -Ingmar Bergman (The Snakeskin, 1965)

"I don't understand why I have to make political pictures. One doesn't blame the painter Edvard Munch for making 'irresponsible apolitical' paintings. Has anyone ever condemned Béla Bartók because of apolitical compositions? Just like them I desire to fathom people's characters–an honourable hunger. Don't grudge me that satisfaction. I admire Costa-Gavras (Missing) and Margarethe von Trotta (Die Bleierne Zeit/The years of lead) who film people as well as politics. But it's not my cup of tea." -Ingmar Bergman (Goodbye to All That, 1984)

"There is an old story of how the Cathedral of Chartres was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Then thousands of people came from all points of the compass, like a giant procession of ants, and together they began to rebuild the cathedral on its old site. They worked until the building was completed–master builders, artists, labourers, clowns, noblemen, priests, burghers. But they all remained anonymous, and no one knows to this day who rebuilt the Cathedral of Chartres.

Regardless of my own beliefs and my own doubts, which are unimportant in this connection, it is my opinion that art lost its basic creative drive the moment it was separated from worship. It severed an umbilical cord and now lives its own sterile life, generating and degenerating itself. In former days the artist remained unknown and his work was to the glory of God. He lived and died without being more or less important than other artisans; "eternal values," "immortality," and "masterpiece" were terms not applicable to his case. The ability to create was a gift. In such a world flourished invulnerable assurance and natural humility.

Today the individual has become the highest form, and the greatest bane, of artistic creation. The smallest wound or pain of the ego is examined under a microscope as if it were of eternal importance. The artist considers his isolation, his subjectivity, his individualism almost holy. Thus we finally gather in one large pen, where we stand and bleat about our loneliness without listening to each other and without realizing that we are smothering each other to death. The individualists stare into each other's eyes and yet deny each other's existence. We walk in circles, so limited by our own anxieties that we can no longer distinguish between true and false, between the gangster's whim and the purest ideal.

Thus if I am asked what I would like the general purpose of my films to be, I would reply that I want to be one of the artists in the cathedral on the great plain. I want to make a dragon's head, an angel, a devil–or perhaps a saint–out of stone. It does not matter which; it is the sense of satisfaction that counts. Regardless of whether I believe or not, whether I am a Christian or not, I would play my part in the collective building of the cathedral." -Ingmar Bergman (Why I Make Movies, 1960)

On Bergman

"The predominant arena for conflict in motion pictures has usually been the external, physical world. Certainly that was true for many years. Witness the staples of slapstick and Westerns, war films and chases and gangster movies and musicals. As the Freudian revolution sank in, however, the most fascinating arena for conflict shifted to the interior and films were faced with a problem. The psyche is not visible. If the most interesting fights are being waged in the heart and mind, what to do? Bergman evolved a style to deal with the human interior, and he alone among directors has explored the soul's battlefield to the fullest. With impunity he put his camera on faces for unconscionable periods of time while actors and actresses wrestled with their anguish. One saw great performers in extreme close-ups that lingered beyond where the textbooks say is good movie form. Faces were everything for him. Close-ups. More close-ups. Extreme close-ups. He created dreams and fantasies and so deftly mingled them with reality that gradually a sense of the human interior emerged. He used huge silences with tremendous effectiveness. The terrain of Bergman films is different from his contemporaries'. It matches the bleak beaches of the rocky island he lives on. He has found a way to show the soul's landscape. (He said he viewed the soul as a membrane, a red membrane, and showed it as such in Cries and Whispers.) By rejecting cinema's standard demand for conventional action, he has allowed wars to rage inside characters that are as acutely visual as the movements of armies." -Woody Allen (Through a Life Darkly, 1988)

"Bergman, in effect, is the film-maker of the instant. Each of his films is born of the hero's reflection on the present moment, and deepens that reflection by a sort of dislocation of time–rather in the manner of Proust but more powerfully, as though Proust were multiplied by both Joyce and Rousseau–to become a vast, limitless meditation upon the instantaneous. An Ingmar Bergman film is, if you like, one twenty-fourth of a second metamorphosed and expanded over an hour and a half. It is the world between two blinks of the eyelids, the sadness between two heart-beats, the gaiety between two handclaps." -Jean-Luc Godard (Bergmanorama, 1958)

It had taken seventeen years of work (he began in 1945 with Crisis, and The Silence comes from 1962) for him to grasp that a film's power comes from the unrelenting honesty of its maker, his courage in refusing to retreat by as much as one step. Not from its philosophical construction (The Seventh Seal, which I do not like), its original and beautiful record of dreams and overpowering nightmares (as in Wild Strawberries), its social elucidation of dramatic events (as in Summer with Monika, which I like a lot) -- but from its delineation of feelings we all experience and understand, as we tremble incessantly between love and hate, between fear of death and a longing for rest, between envy and generosity, between a keen sense of humiliation and the joy of revenge.

The Silence takes place in the oppressive stickiness of a baking day and a hot night, which has room for eroticism and lust but none for love, in which the absence of pity, sympathy or even a drop of understanding is a thoroughly natural condition. Throughout this dark, bleak, fearsomely sad film -- outside its action and utterances -- there pulses a tiny groundless flame of hope.

I know where the bright trace comes from in this dark film. From Bergman's profound belief in humanity, even where circumstances or feelings compel the protagonists to be cruel and ruthless." -Krzystof Kieslowski (Bergman's Silence, 199?)

"Bergman's a sustained interrogation of conflict and crisis, neither a series of frenzied and gratuitous revolts nor an agonized, purely symptomatic chorus of desperate cries. The notorious gloominess of his films is dictated by the real violence and disorder that he perceives in culture and is the consequence of his effort to confront these crises without having recourse to culture's violent and illusory means of bringing the return to order. The enigmatic and troublesome aspects of Bergman's films become more comprehensible once we attend to his critique of what one character in From the Life of the Marionettes calls the "prescribed patterns" and "dark governing forces" of life. Bergman's supposed demonic quality springs from his rejection of blinding conventions that are at once aesthetic and social. Traditionally the artist, charged to imitate crises and their resolution before the eyes of the community, has found a role in this ritual, but this tradition is no longer tenable for Bergman, who would substitute for this mode of exchange between artist and audience a more difficult and constructive form of communication. He appears to be demonic because he probes the real crises that have disrupted so many aspects of contemporary culture, and because he asks his spectators to follow him in this exploration without offering them the guarantee of a reassuring conclusion." -Paisley Livingston (Ingmar Bergman and the Rituals of Art, 1982)

"Bergman's characters are shown to be caught in a conflict between the inner world and the often menacing outer world. Regardless of gender, age, or status, Bergman's interest is rooted in how they choose to compromise the two. As Godard observes in his essay: "the cinema is an art. ... One is always alone; on the set as before the blank page. And for Bergman to be alone means to ask questions." Time and again, Bergman challenges our sense of both individual and collective identity (who are we and how do we live with others?) — ethical, political, and social considerations every bit as relevant to the current climate, modernist or otherwise, as any moment previously. It is for this reason, however valid the re-evaluation of the alternative critics, however necessary the revisionist approach, that the study of film cannot afford to be without such a cinematic force, and particularly one so central to its institutionalisation, as Ingmar Bergman." -Richard Shaw (Through a Glass Darkly, 2003)