Sweden's master of theater and modern cinema Ingmar Bergman offered fans a bitter gift on his 86th birthday this week, bidding his adieus for the third time, this time taking his leave of the stage for good.
Theater is "the beginning and the end and really everything," Bergman said in an interview in Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter on his birthday on July 14.
He insisted nonetheless that his more than 70-year theatrical career had definitely come to an end, and that his 2002 production of Ghosts by Norwegian 19th century playwright Henrik Ibsen had been his last.
"After Ghosts I decided that now it's over. Now it's enough. They won't have to carry me out of the theater. I'll walk out myself. No one is going to say, `Now the old man should know it's time to stop,'" he said.
Bergman's decision to leave the theater comes more than 20 years after his last film Fanny and Alexander graced the silver screen.
"It was a really fun shoot and I had a wonderful ensemble and fantastic co-workers," Bergman said of his work on the hit film, but added that by the time it premiered in 1982 he realized it was time to call it quits.
"I thought, this is the end, no matter how bloody and fantastic film work can be ... And you know, I have never regretted that decision. I haven't missed working with film for a single day," he said.
The director of such movie greats as The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries did not abandon the moving image completely however, continuing to make eight productions for television.
In his final film, Saraband, which was broadcast on Swedish public television last December, and which he has insisted should never be shown in theaters, the film legend resuscitates Johan and Marianne from his 1973 mini-series Scenes from a Marriage.
Bowing out of theater wasn't quite as simple for Bergman as his decision to leave the cinematic world behind. In the fall of last year, he went so far as to sell his Stockholm apartment near the Royal Dramatic Theater, or Dramaten, which he headed up in the 1960s, in an attempt to avoid being drawn back in.