Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman died on Monday, local media reported. He was 89 years old.
Bergman died at his home on the small Baltic islet of Faro, north of the tourist island of Gotland, Sweden, the Swedish news agency TT said, citing his daughter Eva Bergman, one of his nine children. He died a peaceful death, she told TT.
The date of the funeral has not yet been set, but will be attended by a close group of friends and family, TT said.
PHOTOS: AP AND AFP
Bergman, whose 1982 film Fanny and Alexander won an Oscar for best foreign film, made about 60 movies before retiring from film making in 2003.
In his films, Bergman's vision encompassed all the extremes of his beloved Sweden: the claustrophobic gloom of unending winter nights, the gentle merriment of glowing summer evenings and the bleak magnificence of the island where he spent his last years.
Bergman, who approached difficult subjects such as plague and madness with inventive technique and carefully honed writing, became one of the towering figures of serious filmmaking.
He was "probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera," Woody Allen said in a 70th birthday tribute in 1988.
Bergman first gained international attention with 1955's Smiles of a Summer Night, a romantic comedy that inspired the Stephen Sondheim musical A Little Night Music. His last work was Saraband, a made-for-television movie that aired on Swedish public television in December 2003.
When it aired, nearly a million Swedes - or one in nine - watched the family drama, which was based on the two main characters from his previous TV series, Scenes From a Marriage."
The show starred Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson - two of Bergman's favorite actors - who reprised their roles from Scenes From a Marriage, which was edited and released as a feature film in 1974.
But it was The Seventh Seal, released two years later, that riveted critics and audiences. An allegorical tale of the medieval Black Plague years, it contains one of cinema's most famous scenes - a knight playing chess with the shrouded figure of Death.
"I was terribly scared of death," Bergman said of his state of mind when making the 1957 film, which was nominated for an Academy Award in the best picture category.
The film distilled the essence of Bergman's work - high seriousness, flashes of unexpected humor and striking images.
In an interview in 2004 with Swedish broadcaster SVT, the reclusive filmmaker admitted that he was reluctant to view his work.
"I don't watch my own films very often. I become so jittery and ready to cry ... and miserable. I think it's awful," Bergman said.
Though best known internationally for his films, Bergman was also a prominent stage director. He worked at several playhouses in Sweden from the mid-1940s, including the Royal Dramatic Theater in Stockholm, which he headed from 1963 to 1966. He staged many plays by the Swedish author August Strindberg, whom he cited as an inspiration.
A life summed up
Ingmar Bergman sought to exorcise a traumatic childhood through cinematic masterpieces whose major themes were sexual torment and the vain search for the meaning of life.
Bergman's work encompassed 54 films, 126 theatre productions and 39 radio plays. Here are some key facts on his life and times:
- Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born on July 14, 1918, in the Swedish university town of Uppsala. His father, a Lutheran priest who became chaplain to the king of Sweden, humiliated and caned the young Bergman, a sickly child.
- Bergman began his career as a scriptwriter and at one time directed soap commercials to escape unemployment.
- His break into the film world came in 1955 with Smiles of a Summer Night, a sophisticated comedy of manners set in turn-of-the-century Sweden. It won a prize for best comedy at the 1956 Cannes film festival.
- He gained international recognition with the 1956 film The Seventh Seal, set in the Middle Ages, in which a crusader searching for God and the meaning of life plays chess with death. It won the jury prize at the 1957 Cannes film festival.
- Films like Wild Strawberries, Scenes From a Marriage and Fanny and Alexander, set in the clear light of a rugged North, gave Sweden a reputation for melancholy and elevated Bergman into one of the masters of the modern cinema.
- Bergman's self-proclaimed retirement from cinema followed the making of Fanny and Alexander. Produced in three- and five-hour versions, the film won four Oscars in 1984, including best foreign film.
- Bergman was appointed director of Sweden's national theatre, the Royal Dramatic Theatre, in 1963.
- He directed three films abroad, one of them, The Autumn Sonata (1978), bringing together Liv Ullmann and the late Ingrid Bergman. The Swedish actress was not related.
BERGMAN THE PERSON:
- Offstage, Bergman's private life was often thrust into the limelight. He was married five times to beautiful and gifted women and was known for liaisons with his leading actresses.
- His four ex-wives, including a dancer, a director and a pianist, continued to speak highly of him as did the actresses with whom he had affairs, among them Norwegian Liv Ullmann, his companion of the late 1960s.
- The message he transmitted through eloquent but lonely characters was one of unredeemed gloom. "My need is to be dead. Absolutely, totally, dead", as one character put it in Wild Strawberries.
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