Born in the city of Uppsala in 1918 to a conservative Lutheran
minister and his wife, Bergman's childhood was a difficult one.
Along with his brother and sister, he was subjected to strict
disciplinary measures that possibly encouraged his tendency to seek
solace and inspiration in a fantasy world. He was conscious
from a young age of the power of imagery, and the path of Bergman's
life was set when he acquired a magic lantern, a type of image
projector invented in the 17th century that allowed him to explore
his environment in a new way.
Despite several flirtations with Nazism, Bergman settled at
Stockholm University where he unsuccessfully studied for a degree
in art and literature. Rather, he used the time to develop his key
interests (film, theatre and romance), and he used his university
years to write several plays. After graduation he joined a local
Stockholm theatre as a trainee director, and he pursued a career in
live theatre over the following two decades working stints at
Helsingborg City Theatre (1943 - 1946), the Gottenburg City Theatre
(1946 - 1949), the Malmo city theatre (1953 - 1970) and eventually
the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm (1960 - 1966).
While working in theatre, Bergman simultaneously developed a film
career that ultimately made him one of the most influential film
directors of the 20th century. Largely based on the island of Fårö,
he began in the early 1940s writing scripts, but progressed to
directing within five years. Within a decade he achieved worldwide
success with Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), which were
quickly followed by The Seventh Seal and Wild
Strawberries. He continued to direct films over the following
decades including a triptych dealing with religious faith and some
of his best known works Persona, The Virgin
Spring, Autumn Sonata and the television film
Scenes from a Marriage.
He was director of the Residenz Theatre in Munich (1977 - 1984)
during a period of self imposed exile after he was accused, in
1976, of tax evasion. Although he was eventually proved to be
innocent of the charges, Bergman's fury at the public humiliation
caused by the situation lead him to shut down all projects then in
progress in Sweden, shut down his studio on Fårö, and moved to
Germany, where he resided until the mid-1980s.
Bergman married five times, and had romantic relationships with
three of his key actresses including Liv Ullmann, with whom he had
a daughter Linn, who is one of nine children he fathered.
His longest relationship was with Ingrid von Rosen, to whom he was
married from 1971 until her death from stomach cancer in 1995.
Bergman spent his final years living in Sweden, and he retired from
filmmaking in 2003. He suffered from various health problems and
passed away in his sleep at his home on Fårö island in 2007 at the
age of 89, on the same day that Italian filmmaker Michelangelo
Antonioni passed away.
This is an extract from the program for Face to
Face, which is available for $10 from the the program seller
in the Sydney Theatre foyer.
Face, Sydney Theatre, 7 August - 8 September, 2012.