Author: Philip & Kersti French
I first came into contact with Ingmar Bergman during my university years. I’d known of him (being a film fan it would have been sacrilege not to have seen The Seventh Seal), but I’d only really watched a couple of films from his impressive directorial back-catalogue. I was recommended two particular films by a fellow classmate, the first being Cries and Whispers (now a firm Bergman favorite of mine) which was followed by Wild Strawberries. I’ve since found both of them to be impressive Swedish gems which went into making my own tastes in film mature and expand.
Unlike the majority of the BFI Classics range, this little ditty is written by a husband and wife team. This slim reference guide is an incredibly enjoyable read which is down to Philip French’s journalistic background. Credit where credit is due, this never feels like a laborious piece of film theory. It’s a detailed but accessible (for a film novice) account of how Bergman was influenced by director Victor Sjostrom (particularly his classic silent film The Phantom Carriage), through to Sweden’s cultural history within film.
Not only does French delve into the influences that Bergman derived his style from (harking back to his theatre days), but he also provides a detailed history on Swedish filmmaking during the start of Bergman’s career. I was amazed at how much of an eye opener this little book was. There’s a genuine sense of education that can be taken away from reading this cover-to-cover. All of which left me with a craving for more information on Bergman’s other features.
Like most of the BFI Film Classics range this really is a must-read as it’s informative and easily digestible. It’ll even turn a Bergman film novice into an educated fan of the great man himself. Educational but never boring.