Legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman died at his home on the Baltic islet of Faro on Monday at the age of 89. Considered by many critics to be one of the most important directors of the 20th-century, Bergman made over 50 films throughout his career, including The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona, and Fanny and Alexander, for which he received an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1982.
Born on July 14, 1918, Bergman suffered an unusually harsh childhood. His father, a Lutheran clergyman, forced him to wear skirts as punishment for wetting his pants, and often beat him and locked him in closets. Bergman described his mother, a housewife, as someone who could be very warm, but also very cold. As a result, much of Bergman’s work centered on difficult relationships between men and women, and on man’s complex relationship with God.
Most people associate melancholy and turmoil with Bergman’s work, said film historian Geoffrey McNab on BBCNews.com, but he was more than a tortured soul. Bergman’s international breakthrough film, Smiles of a Summer Night, was “a quintessential summer house farce, which directly influenced Woody Allen’s Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy.” Bergman was also more than just a filmmaker; he was a versatile artist who worked in theater and television, and wrote novels and scripts. “That’s why he is important.”
But what really made Bergman extraordinary was his introspection, said Richard Corliss on Time.com. “This agonized Swede was a surgeon who operated on himself.” Bergman “cut into his own fears, analyzed his failings, perhaps sought forgiveness through his art.” And the amazing thing about it was, rather than merely dragging viewers into a morass of despair, “Bergman made anguish sexy, emotional neediness a turn-on.”