Unlike Criterion’s 100 Years of Olympic Films box set this release does actually feature supplementary material across the discs, porting over a lot of it from their existing individual Bergman releases while also adding new material exclusive (as of now) to this set.
Disc one presents Smiles of a Summer Night and Criterion ports everything over that was included on both their original DVD and edition and their individual Blu-ray edition. First is a 4-minute introduction by Ingmar Bergman, filmed by director Marie Nyeröd in 2003, filmed for television as introductions for airings of his films (and Criterion has been putting these on their Bergman releases since). He briefly talks about his surprise at the film’s success, which also showed at Cannes without his knowledge (he found out about it while sitting on the toilet reading the newspaper.) In turn the film’s success, after a series of flops, led to him receiving more freedom to make the films he wanted. Not overly insightful because of its short runtime but I enjoy getting whatever interview I can with the director.
The final feature is a 17-minute discussion between film scholar Peter Cowie and writer Jörn Donner. Not the overly insightful piece I had been hoping for but it has some value. The two talk about Bergman’s career up to that point (not great) and then how this film helped him break out of Sweden, his stature amongst cinephiles cemented after The Seventh Seal, which he was able to make because of the success of Smiles of a Summer Night. Donner talks a little about Bergman’s personal life at the time, as well as problems in his professional relationships, and the two also talk about Summer Night and the film’s cast. Not bad but as the disc’s meatier supplement it’s lacking. The disc also still comes with short bios for each participant.
A 2-minute theatrical trailer then closes the disc.
Disc 2, featuring Crisis and A Ship to India, does note contain any special features.
Disc 3 next features all of the material related to the film found on it, Wild Strawberries, all carried over from the original Blu-ray edition, starting with Peter Cowie’s audio commentary, a fine if overly scholarly track. Cowie is a wealth of knowledge on the subject of Bergman and he relates how Bergman developed the script and how aspects of his life that played a part in writing/making the film. He talks about the cast and how Sjörström came to be involved in the film, deconstructs the dream sequence and how it will be played out later in the film, the symbolism found within, and talks about the look and ultimately its reception and impact on Bergman’s career. As usual it does sound as though Cowie is reading from notes and/or a script, and this can drag it out a bit, but he does offer a dense amount of information and is worth a listen. (Since it was recorded for the DVD edition Cowie does still refer to “this DVD” throughout.)
An introduction by Ingmar Bergman also makes its way over, and these pop up sporadically throughout the set. This was shot for what I assume was a TV screening of the film. For 4-minutes the director talks about the film, the personal aspects, and how he got Sjörström to star in it.
Replacing a stills gallery found on the original DVD edition, Criterion now includes Behind the Scenes Footage. Running 16-minutes the footage is silent, but we do get English narration from Jan Wengström. The footage is wonderful, offering a glimpse of the cast and crew prepping sets or getting ready for shooting, with some footage here and there of cast members talking and bonding between takes. The narration offers very little that hasn’t already been said elsewhere, but Wengström talks about the production, casting, and how the cast and crew got along on set. The footage is mostly black-and-white but the last few minutes are in colour. All of it was shot on 16mm.
Also carried over is the 90-minute documentary/conversation with Bergman filmed in 1998 called Ingmar Bergman: On Life and Work, which features filmmaker Jörn Donner talking with him. It has very little to do with Wild Strawberries and is more about his life and how it has influenced his work. He also talks about his process, and shares musings on theater, film, politics, writing, his wives, his life on Fårö, and more. It’s dense and Bergman is thankfully humourous, especially since Donner is about as dry as can be, but it can be, unfortunately, a little too clinical.
Disc 4, containing To Joy and a new restoration for the previously released Summer Interlude, does note contain any special features.
Disc 5 contains Summer with Monika, which was previously released on Blu-ray by Criterion. They’ve ported all of the features over starting with a brief introduction by Ingmar Bergman. This piece was recorded by director Marie Nyreröd along with a series of other introductions back in 2004. These introductions, I believe, were used to introduce the films before they played on Swedish television. Here Bergman states that the film was actually the first one he watched in his brand-new DVD player, and that it’s still a favourite of his. He talks about the production and recalls his fond memories around the time. Not overly insightful since it’s brief but it’s charming little piece.
Following this is an interview between Harriet Andersson and film scholar Peter Cowie recorded for Criterion in early 2012. The two talk about how Andersson came to catch Bergman’s eye and be cast as Monika and she also gets into how their romantic relationship came to be. And she of course speaks fondly of the director, who was the one was able to get her out of what she considered “tits and ass” roles and lead her down the path of excellent female roles in the films. It’s a fond, engaging interview, running about 25-minutes.
Next up Criterion includes a 30-minute documentary by Stig Björkman called Images From the Playground, made for the World Cinema Foundation. It’s first introduced by Martin Scorsese, who recalls first discovering Bergman and the joy of introducing the filmmaker to younger people. The documentary itself is made up of footage shot on the set of Bergman’s various films using a 9.5mm camera. Audio interviews with the director and actors Harriet Andersson and Bibi Andersson, plays over the footage. Bergman talks about why he made these recordings on set, the joy he felt in making his films, and working with his actors, while the two Anderssons talk about their roles and working with the director, with Bibi admitting she was jealous that she never got the same types of roles Harriet did. The footage is rather fun to view and at times can be a little jarring: it’s weird to see obviously jokey tones, playful cast members, and laughing on the sets of films like Winter Light and Through a Glass Darkly, as I could only imagine them to be some of the most solemn sets in the history of filmmaking. I’m usually not fond of these types of things but this turns out to be a fairly joyful and fun little piece.
Monika Exploited! is a 13-minute piece featuring Eric Schaefner talking about the original U.S. cut of the film. The distribution rights were bought by Kroger Babb (or so he thought) and he recut the film down to just over 60-minutes and dubbed it in English, delivering it as an exploitation film. As it turns out Svensk had sold the rights to Janus films and eventually and the distributor of that version found themselves in legal trouble. Unfortunately there’s actually not a lot here about that version of the film, and we only get a couple of clips, complete with a Jazz score. Instead the piece focuses more on the exploitation films of the period and Kroger Babb’s career, including his hit Mom and Dad. I’ve never seen the alternate version of Monika and it would have been great if it could have been included here, even if just as a curiosity, but I assume either there were issues with the rights or some other condition that was out of their hands.
The supplements for disc 5 then conclude with the film’s original Swedish theatrical trailer, which makes the film look a little scandalous. Disappointingly the American trailer is nowhere to be seen.
Both Dreams and A Lesson in Love appear on disc 6. The only feature on this disc is another introduction by Bergman filmed by Nyerod, running 4-minutes. In it Bergman recalls the fear he had as to how audiences would respond to his comedy, and he was overjoyed when he heard audiences laughing.
Disc 7 presents the television version of Scenes from a Marriage, the features for which appear on the disc 8 with the television version and the sequel, Saraband. This disc starts off with a 15-minute interview featuring Ingmar Bergman, recorded a few years after Scenes from a Marriage first aired on television. The director talks about the miniseries from idea to screen, and then its impact. This is then followed by a 25-minute conversation with stars Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson. Here the two talk about the show, but mostly concentrate on talking about each other and their work together, not limited to this film. And then finally Peter Cowie talks about the two versions. Most of the differences are obvious if you've seen both but he does compare some subtle little things that I did otherwise miss, even during this go with it. He also looks at the editing and pacing of each version, noting how Bergman was aware that audiences would react differently when watching it over multiple nights on television or trapped in a theater for a few hours.
Rather oddly and somewhat disappointingly Criterion doesn’t include any special features at all around Saraband. Since Criterion started licensing from Sony I figured this would have been one of the first films they would go after but oddly they never got around to it until this set and now it almost feels as though they just couldn’t be bothered, that at best it’s just a supplement film to Scenes from a Marriage. The Sony DVD included a making-of that I’m sure Criterion could have at least included but alas it’s not here. I’d like to think Criterion would revisit the film individually in the future but since they didn’t do much with it here I’m not sure how likely that would be now.
Disc 9 includes From the Life of Marionettes and Hour of the Wolf, neither title coming with any special features. This is fairly disappointing not only because of the subject matter of both films, but also because MGM had previously released Hour of the Wolf on DVD with a number of special features.
On the 10th disc The Passion of Anna receives no special features but Shame does offer a handful of excellent ones. Things start off with a news item featuring a story on the film’s production, which aired in 1967 on September 9th. The 5-minute segment goes over the production and features the interviewer asking Bergman on whether the conflict in Vietnam influenced the film in any way and his reasons for not using music. This is followed by a 15-minute interview with Bergman from a 1968 episode of a show called “Forum,” where the director talks about the film, war and how it effects people and the arts, and the apolitical nature of the protagonists in the film. Together the two interviews give an idea of what influenced Bergman and what he was hoping to say with the film.
Liv Ullmann next provides a new interview for this release, talking here about “the Fårö Island years” of Bergman’s career. She talks about how their personal relationship developed, her leaving her husband to be with Bergman on the island, and then the films they made during this period: Hour of the Wolf, Persona, Shame, and The Passion of Anna. She explains what she remembers about how Bergman developed the films, what influenced him, how he developed them, and how one would influence the next film (or dreams and nightmares to be a bit more correct). It’s a great, rather personal interview, Ullmann being very open about her relationship with Bergman, and what it was like to work with him on a film when the two of them had this more intimate relationship off set. Ullmann’s interviews are always wonderful and this is no different.
The biggest feature on here is a 72-minute program made for New York’s public access station WNET in 1968, called An Introduction to Ingmar Bergman, which, through various clips and interviews with Bergman, Ullmann, and Max von Sydow, goes over Bergman’s career up to Shame, while also showcasing some behind-the-scenes footage. For those already familiar with Bergman’s work and career it probably won’t offer anything significantly new, but if anyone is looking for a decent primer and introduction to the director and his work, they can do a lot worse.
Disc 11 features Bergman’s documentaries Fårö Document and Fårö Document 1979. To accompany the films Criterion also includes two shorts: Daniel and Karin’s Face, running about 10-minutes and 15-minutes respectively. Daniel was created by Bergman for a 1967 Swedish omnibus film, Stimulantia, and created from 16mm home movie footage of his son, Daniel, from birth to the afternoon of his second birthday, hitting a number of achievements along the way (from walking to trying a Swedish brand of bottled water). Karin’s Face centers around Bergman’s mother, and he explores her history (including details about a marriage frowned upon by her family) through family photos and albums. This also gives a look at Bergman’s own childhood and his father.
The two films have also been beautifully restored (though the home movie footage in Daniel still shows damage) and are presented in 1080p/24hz.
Bergman’s Film Trilogy comes up next through the next few discs, starting with disc 12, which features Through a Glass Darkly. The supplements here start off with a 2003 introduction recorded with Bergman by filmmaker Marie Nyeröd while making Bergman Island. Introductions were recorded around this time for television airings of his films and Criterion has been including them on their reissues and new editions for Bergman’s films since. This simple 2-minute one differs from the others (which usually feature the two in a screening room) and primarily features Nyeröd talking about Faro Island and it being featured in Through a Glass Darkly, before it then jumps quickly to the screening room.
Making its way over from the DVD yet again is a 2003 interview with film scholar Peter Cowie, who is a regular on most of Criterion’s Bergman releases. During this 11-minute segment Cowie explains why this film and the two films that follow in this set (Winter Light and The Silence) are considered to be all part of a trilogy, linked by their religious themes (though he admits Through a Glass Darkly doesn’t get even remotely religious until closer to the end). He also talks about how Bergman’s style changed with this film, which led to a drop in the box office. It’s not terribly in-depth (a commentary from Cowie would have been very welcome) but as an introduction to the trilogy you could do a lot worse.
Cowie is the followed with an excerpt from a 2012 interview with actor Harriet Andersson, filmed at the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä, Finland, where she first jokes about how she was married to a farmer at the time (which she figures is hard for some to imagine) before talking about coming on board to do Through a Glass Darkly. It’s a fun conversation and she has a couple of good stories, including an amusing one about how her stomach wouldn’t stop gurgling during one scene. It runs 8-minutes with some behind-the-scene footage and clips from the film.
The disc then closes with the film’s American trailer. The recent Trilogy box set featured a couple of other features on the disc for Through a Glass Darkly, one of which, an audio interview featuring director of photography Sven Nykvist, can be found on the last disc of this set. The other, an audio interview with Gunnar Bjornstrand, doesn’t appear to be available here.
Disc 13 presents the second film in the trilogy, Winter Light, and it packs a few features, carrying everything over from the DVD. The biggest inclusion here (and found on its own disc in the original DVD set from Criterion for the trilogy) is the the 5-episode, 146-minute television documentary on the making of Winter Light, Vilgot Sjöman’s Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie. As a making-of documentary it never really rises above others of its type but getting such an intimate portrait of Bergman and how he goes about developing a film is still priceless. Each of the five parts cover a specific aspect of the production (with the last part being a straight interview between Bergman and Sjöman about the release and experience), we get to see development and pre-production before moving onto the actual filming, watching Bergman work with his actors (though Sjöman admits in an essay included with the DVD but not in this set that these were staged by Bergman specifically for the documentary). The best portion, though, covers post-production, where Bergman talks about how he constructs his films and the editing process. Again, I didn’t find it to be constructed in a particularly original, or even interesting way, but I enjoyed watching Bergman work and listening to him go through his process in an almost step-by-step manner.
The documentary has been broken up into five chapters, one for each part, dropping the individual chapters found on the DVD within each episode. The same master used for the DVD has also been used here, so it’s basically a video presentation and it still looks rough.
Another introduction from Bergman features the director explaining why Winter Light is his favourite film (there was a quote found in an insert of the old DVD set that went over this) and then the remaining features have been ported over from the DVD. The same 10-minute interview with scholar Peter Cowie, a regular on Criterion’s Bergman releases, is presented yet again. Cowie talks about how Bergman drastically changed his style with this film, which he admits threw him off initially, finding the film to be “not as technically impressive.” He realized, though, that Bergman was going for something that felt more real. He also talks about the film’s theme on “crisis of faith” and despite the film obviously being centered around Christianity Bergman still manages to make the film universal. I first saw this film when I was just really going through Bergman’s films and Cowie’s comments here on Bergman’s own personal issues with religion and faith helped me understand the director and these films a bit more (other features and documentaries I came across later would expand on all of this, though). Good for newcomers to the films.
The disc then closes with the Janus theatrical trailer.
(Note: This section will be updated as I go through the set.)
The big feature of this set, though, is a massive 247-page book, easily the most impressive one Criterion has ever put together. Outside of writings for each film in the set (either newly commissioned or writings previously commissioned by Criterion in the past), the book also features a note by Abbey Lustgarten explaining the thinking behind how the set has been put together, followed by an introduction about Bergman, his life, career, and impact, written by Bergman scholar Peter Cowie. Throughout the book you’ll also find quotes from Bergman, taken either from his essays, journals, interviews, and more. The book then closes with a guide on how to watch the films in chronological order (with indicators informing what disc the film is on) accompanied by a synopsis and credits, followed by a list of supplements found throughout the set and notes on the restorations. It’s a phenomenal book and nicely caps off things for this edition.
Grade will be updated as I go through the set 8/10