The Ingmar Bergman Collection Ingmar Bergman

The Ingmar Bergman Collection Ingmar Bergman
We all know what we mean by "Bergman-esque": the silence, the intense close-ups, the dread and despair. The five films in this new box-set all share this quality, although they seem at first glance to be an odd collection. This is clearly not a "greatest hits" set, in fact, only one, Persona, is a title that is likely to be familiar to all but the real Bergman nuts. There is logic to the selection, however. Four of the five films date from the late '60s, a period marked by two of Bergman's great love affairs. The first was with the Norwegian actor Liv Ullmann. They fell in love during the filming of Persona and were together for the next five years, producing one child and several films. The other love affair, which has endured, is with the island of Fårö, the setting of four of these films and many more since. The first four films also share common Bergman themes of isolation, madness and cruelty. In Persona, an actor (Ullmann) suffers a nervous breakdown and refuses to speak. The Hour of the Wolf (1968) stars the wonderful Max von Sydow as a man pursued by vampires. In Shame (1968), Ullman and von Sydow endure unabated suffering in a civil war, and The Passion of Anna (1969) shows the cruelty and isolation in the relationships of two couples. Of course, these are over-simplifications of some highly complex films, films that demand intelligence, raise questions and make us want to shake the director and say, "What? What are you talking about?" Sadly, but not surprisingly (Bergman is famously evasive about what his films "mean"), there are no director commentaries. We do however get really useful commentary from his biographer, Marc Gervais, as well as extensive interviews with cast members and excellent featurettes on each film. A sixth disc includes even more goodies — full interviews with Bergman from 1970 and 2002, a short documentary about his beloved Fårö, and the full text of American Cinematographer's 1972 "Filmmaking in Sweden" edition, including interviews with both Bergman and his cinematographer, Sven Nykvist. The real mystery is the fifth film in the collection. The Serpent's Egg (1977), the only film he made in English, stars David Carradine as an acrobat in 1920s Berlin. Apart from a strong performance by Liv Ullmann, it has little in common with the four "Fårö films" and sadly, it's simply not as good. Bergman called it an "embarrassing failure," and it's a shame that a better film wasn't chosen to round out this excellent series. (MGM)