The year is 1961 and Ingmar Bergman is making a movie. While planted on the scene as apprentice to Bergman, Vilgot Sjöman (director, I Am Curious–Yellow, 1967), suggests to Swedish Television that they take the opportunity to record with the acclaimed director. In August, Sjöman and the television crew begin to capture what would become a comprehensive five-part documentary on the making of Winter Light, offering views of script development, set construction and lighting, rehearsals and editing, as well as intimate conversations with Bergman and members of his cast and crew. Footage from the film’s Swedish premiere delivers immediate audience reactions and the critics’ reviews the following day. Originally recorded on 16mm film, the television series Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie is presented here in its entirety for the first time outside of Sweden.
Best known for 1968’s twin arthouse succès de scandales I Am Curious (Yellow) and I Am Curious (Blue), Swedish writer/director Vilgot Sjöman sustained a long and varied career as a filmmaker — a fact generally overlooked by cinephiles on the near side of the Atlantic, where the majority of his features (sadly) fell through the cracks of distribution, evading cinematic and video release.
In his early days, Sjöman struggled as an aspiring playwright, to such a degree that he failed to find backing for any of his theatrical pieces (or producers with any interest in mounting them). He nonetheless carved alternate roads to success — and reworked one of his plays as a novel, which he later adapted as a movie screenplay for Trots/Defiance (1952), directed by Gustaf Molander. Its triumph inspired the 28-year-old Sjöman to eschew theater for cinema, and in 1956 he high-tailed it to Los Angeles, with a scholarship to UCLA under his arm. He enrolled in a six-month film course and subsequently… read more
Fitting that Bergman’s personal favourite of his films received a dedicated, Criterionised making-of, by apprentice Sjöman on 16mm - 2½ hours at that, near twice as long as Nattvardsgästerna itself. Detailed a look at its creative process, from inception to critical review. Stated as the film that obeyed his vision most, one can understand, his auteur here uncovered: total control over procedure, his cajoling his actors, the highly personal bonds. A painstaking, surgical process revealed, so too the heart and mind of the sage behind it, in probing fashion.
My friends who went to film school found Bergman boring, which explains a lot about the state of U.S. films. This movie (along with Winter Light) should probably be required viewing for anyone who wants to make a movie.