Searching for Ingmar Bergman, a new documentary from renowned German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta, is an intimate portrait of the famed Swedish filmmaker’s life and legacy, focusing both on his voluminous oeuvre (Bergman’s first film credit as a screenwriter in the early 1940s to his last film, Saraband, in 2004) and his family life.
Throughout the film’s brisk one-hour-and-forty-minute running time, von Trotta interviews filmmakers, family members, and cast and crew members who worked with Bergman on his films (including his frequent leading lady, Liv Ullmann, though his frequent leading man, Max von Sydow, is mysteriously absent). Some of the most illuminating snippets of Bergman’s life comes through this interviews, in particular the one with his son, who reveals a fractured, emotionally distanced relationship with his famous father.
Von Trotta juxtaposes these interviews with moments from some of Bergman’s key films, beginning in particular on the very beach where one of his most famous films, The Seventh Seal (1957), was filmed. The film’s one weakness appears to be in the curation of this clips: it is sometimes hard to determine their thematic relevance to what is being articulated in the interview. Though Bergman fans may appreciate their lasting aura.
Although it’s not always entirely groundbreaking in its intervention into the many texts on Bergman, Searching for Ingmar Bergman is a touching, thoughtful, and balanced tribute to a complicated filmmaker and man.
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Mark Barber: @WorstCinephile