Germany | France 2018
Opening July 12, 2018
Directed by Felix Moeller, Margarethe von Trotta
Writing credits: Margarethe von Trotta, Felix Moeller
Principal actors: documentary with Liv Ullmann, Olivier Assayas, Ruben Östlund, Daniel Bergman, Rita Russek, Max von Sydow
Swedish Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007) was one of the most successful filmmakers of his time. Here, with the aid of commentator Margarethe von Trotta, who says that her own career as a director was influenced by Bergman, we learn about some of his most famous films: Wild Strawberries (1957), Persona (1966), Hour of the Wolf (1968), Passion of Anna (1969), Autumn Sonata 1978), Fanny & Alexander (1982), and The Silence (1963). Between comments by von Trotta, many others (mostly female) who have worked with him, such as Liv Ullman as well as his son Daniel Bergman, share memories. We learn that Bergman “felt lonely and would escape into filmmaking” and “had so many problems to deal with that he had no time to think” and “seemed to be closer to his own childhood than to his (nine) children” from various relationships, including five marriages.
Perhaps this film would be satisfactory, except that another documentary about a film maker, Cecil Beaton (Love, Cecil) opens the same day and the Bergman film fails to compare in every way. There are some parallel experiences. Both directors had problems coping with their fathers, neither enjoyed going to school; both participated in theater at university and then later worked in theater as well as film. Beaton returned to England after an unfortunate episode in New York while Bergman moved to Munich, Germany, after an unfortunate episode in Sweden. Both are amazing personalities with awards and recognition. While, Love, Cecil reaches out to the viewer as if Beaton were alive and telling his story, here Bergman never comes alive; we seem to be learning all about Margarethe von Trotta instead, who is in practically every scene, as well as others in the film industry who seem to greet the opportunity to step forward for their own advantages. (Becky T.)