Ingmar Bergman always insisted that he kept no archive of his creative life.
Then, from the Baltic Sea island of Faaroe, where Bergman spent his last reclusive years, he dropped a casual mention of one during a phone call to the Swedish Film Institute.
“I have a room here,” the winner of three Best Foreign Language Film Oscars told Maaret Koskinen, a Bergman scholar. “I’ve collected all kinds of stuff. It’s a hell of a mess. Would you care to take a look at it?”
Forty-five crates were shipped to the institute, to be administered by an independent foundation. More followed. Bergman, who died in 2007 aged 89, would not allow any of it to be exhibited in his lifetime. Now some of the haul is on show for the first time, at Deutsche Kinemathek, the film and television museum on Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz.
The cache included correspondence, notebooks, photos of him directing, sketches of sets, theater and film costumes, and film and theater scripts with Bergman’s handwritten notes. The diary- style notes reveal that he found shooting his films utterly draining, emotionally and physically.
“I feel ill, naked and exposed,” he wrote during the shoot for his 1958 movie “The Magician,” and then pledged to stop making films for a while. “I have never been this tired while filming,” he writes while shooting “Autumn Sonata” in 1977. “I am counting the days until it will be over.”
The trove even contained drawings by Bergman as a child. Aged about 12, he illustrated his week almost as though it were a movie storyboard. On one day, he went to the movies with his aunt; on another, he was confined to his bed with stomach pains.
In a respectful letter, Woody Allen professed to be “still glowing from the evening we spent together.” He told Bergman it was “absolutely unnecessary” (with heavy underlining on the absolutely) for him to answer, and pledged to write to him from time to time. Stanley Kubrick wrote to say Bergman was for him “the greatest film-maker at work today.”
My favorite reply is to a long-winded request from a German women’s magazine for an article in support of the fuller-figured woman. Bergman is asked for his view on the female body shape; does he like slimmer or more voluptuous women? “Alle” (“All of them”) is his one-word response.
The women in Bergman’s life feature in private photos, film stills and pictures taken on set: Harriet Andersson, who removed her clothes in “Summer With Monika”; Liv Ullmann, the Norwegian actress with whom he built his house on Faaroe; and Ingrid von Rosen, to whom he remained married from 1971 until her death in 1995.
The exhibition aims to show how closely bound Bergman’s movies were with his own life: The son of a Lutheran pastor, he examined faith in “The Seventh Seal.” Later works, such as “Scenes From a Marriage,” dealt with tangled relationships, of which he had plenty.
More than that, he recreated scenes from his childhood as sets, as well as borrowing costumes and situations from his past. Screens dotted around the exhibition reinforce that link by blending interviews with Bergman with movie footage.
All the feature films Bergman directed and some for which he wrote the script will be shown at the Berlin Film Festival, which awarded him a Golden Bear in 1958 for “Wild Strawberries.”
“Ingmar Bergman, Truth and Lies” is at the Museum fuer film und Fernsehen through May 29, 2011. Information: http://www.deutsche-kinemathek.de/ and on the Berlin Film Festival, http://www.berlinale.de/.
(Catherine Hickley is a writer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are her own.)
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