The Women of Ingmar Bergman

The legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman is well-known for the actors and actresses he frequently cast in his films. After a while, they became known as his regulars, and we became adjusted to seeing them in each new Bergman film. This post focuses on some of the actresses he frequently used – not all the actresses, but some of my favourites who appeared the most often. In no particular order:

Liv Ullmann

Boy, could this woman act. Her first Bergman film was Persona, and she said only a few small words, but she was the main character and her acting performance was nothing short of astonishing. After Persona, she began to appear regularly in almost all of Bergman’s subsequent films, but sadly not Fanny and Alexander. See her in: Persona, The Hour of the Wolf, Shame, The Passion of Anna, Cries and Whispers, Scenes from a Marriage, Face to Face, The Serpent’s Egg, Autumn Sonata, Saraband

Bibi Andersson

Also starring alongside Ullmann in Persona, Andersson’s first experience with Bergman came earlier. She first had a small role in Smiles of a Summer Night, and it was around this time she became involved with Bergman in a sexual relationship, which was paralleled a decade later when he had a relationship with Ullmann, her Persona co-star. It was her role in The Seventh Seal that secured her fame, and she would go on to have a bountiful career in Swedish cinema. See her in: The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Brink of Life, The Magician, The Devil’s Eye, All These Women, Persona, The Passion of Anna, Scenes from a Marriage

Harriet Andersson

The beautiful, sensual and unbelievably sexy Harriet Andersson starred in some of Bergman’s earliest films, and it was her radiant beauty and attractiveness that stood out. Starring as the titular character in the masterpiece Summer with Monika, it was her performance here that was the gateway to a career overseas, in American films such as Dogville. However, the majority of her work remains with Swedish filmmakers. See her in: Summer with Monika, Sawdust and Tinsel, A Lesson in Love, Dreams, Smiles of a Summer Night, Through a Glass Darkly, All These Women, Cries and Whispers, Fanny and Alexander.

Ingrid Thulin

A very charismatic and charming actress, Thulin was nevertheless excellent at acting cold and distanced. Her performances as a spiteful sister in Cries and Whispers or a dying woman in The Silence chilled me, and her long monologue in Winter Light was the one cinematic moment that, for me, sealed her name as a fantastic actress. See her in: Wild Strawberries, Brink of Life, The Magician, Winter Light, The Silence, The Hour of the Wolf, The Rite, Cries and Whispers.

Gunnel Lindblom

Though many don’t remember her as a particularly big Bergman star, I see her as one of his key actresses. It was her small role in The Seventh Seal that was pivotal. She only says three words, but her character is quite possibly the most important and knowledgeable one in the whole film. And she would continue to prove herself, playing a nervous housewife in Winter Light and jealous young women in both The Virgin Spring and The Silence, and she can even be seen more recently in the Swedish smash-hit The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. See her in: The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, The Virgin Spring, Winter Light, The Silence, Scenes from a Marriage.

Eva Dahlbeck

Her first collaboration with Bergman was ironically in a film called Eva, which he wrote but didn’t direct, but from there, he would work with her many times, but only in the earlier part of his career. She was lovely, and charismatic, but sadly faded into obscurity in the 70s. She often starred alongside Bergman regular Gunnar Bjornstrand (and Bergman lovingly referred to the two as “The Battleship Femininity”), and always made her presence known while starring in a film. See her in: Secrets of Women, A Lesson in Love, Dreams, Smiles of a Summer Night, Brink of Life, All These Women.

There. Those are six names for you to remember when checking out a Bergman film. Have you seen them before? What are your favourite performances of any of these actresses? Leave a comment below.


Posted on November 6, 2011, in Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. I must admit, and you’re probably going to kill me for this, but I don’t think I have ever seen a Ingmar Bergman movie *runs and hides* Which one should I start with?Fanny and Alexander?Through a glass darkly?
    Great post by the way! I will pay attention next time!

    • Don’t worry, there are a lot of people who aren’t experienced with Bergman. THE SEVENTH SEAL is probably the best place to start, but I think you’d like FANNY AND ALEXANDER more. Or CRIES AND WHISPERS. Any of those three would be a fantastic place to start.

  2. Christian Hallbeck

    I like Ingrid Thulin the best. Especially her acting in “Winter Light”, “The Silence” and “Cries and Whispers”. (She was extremely beautiful! A beauty enhanced from intelligence, serenity and integrity.) Maybe her best performance is in “Cries and Whispers”. In those beautiful close-ups of here face you truly can se the soul of a tormented woman, mentally suffocating from her inability to love, or show her love.

    And if Fellini and Kurosawa demonstrate their full mastership of filmmaking in “Fellini’s 8½” and “Rashomon”, Bergman does the same in “Cries and Whispers”. These three films are technically flawless – in the meaning that their directors through their complete command of the technical aspects of filmmaking have created a moral, spiritual and emotional reality of the highest validity…

    • I agree that Thulin is wonderful. A truly superb actress. There were three scenes in Bergman movies that secured my love for her: the long monologue in WINTER LIGHT, the scene where she has a seizure and dies at the end of THE SILENCE, and the vagina-cutting scene in CRIES AND WHISPERS. A chill ran down my spine when she smeared the blood all over her face at that moment.

      Those three films you mentioned are all perfect in my opinion. I rated them all 10/10 (though I need to see RASHOMON again, as my memory of it is a little fuzzy) and they are directorial masterpieces.

      Great comment Christian, and thanks for sharing.

  3. I think it’s hilarious that he was either married to or romantically involved with just about all of these women.

  4. I’m such a wimp. I haven’t watched a single Bergman movie to date. I just can’t gather the energy and mental attitude required to make the leap ahaha 😉

    • Hehe don’t worry, there are a lot of people like you, and I don’t think any less of them. Not all of them will like Bergman in the first place, anyway. It’s often said that THE SEVENTH SEAL is the best place to start, and that’s right, but I think you’d like FANNY AND ALEXANDER or CRIES AND WHISPERS more. They’re both very accessible and incredibly enjoyable, especially FANNY AND ALEXANDER, which is my favourite movie of the 80s.

  5. Even I was a Bergman Virgin until a couple of months when I saw Wild Strawberries. And Ingrid Thulin has stayed with me since then. Liv Ulmann in Persona and Harriet Anderson in Smiles of Summer Night are great. I still have to check many of films though. Most notable The Seventh Seal and Scenes of Marriage.

    • You’ve seen some great films but you definitely need to watch more. Might I recommend FANNY AND ALEXANDER, FACE TO FACE, THE HOUR OF THE WOLF, WINTER LIGHT, or SAWDUST AND TINSEL? Those are just some great ones.

      • I have seen Fanny and Alexander. Probably Best Bergman I have seen. Cries and whisper as well. The Hour of the Wolf and Passion of Anna are in my Netflix Queue. So, I will get to them. And yes I definitely have the whole Silence Trilogy in my Wishlist.

      • PASSION OF ANNA’s a good one. Quite underrated, in my opinion.

  6. Arguably the best post I’ve seen on this site. Brilliant. You did it again, you son of a bitch.

    • What? Okay, now your compliments have gone way too far. I just… I don’t know what to say to what you’ve just written. Thank you is just not enough.

      • It’s partly because I love this blog and partly because I love the women of Ingmar Bergman. A lethal combination that could only make me swoon.

      • Haha, yeah, I love his actresses too. Harriet and Bibi Andersson are the sexiest, but Ingrid Thulin and Liv Ullmann have an undeniably brilliant acting talent that is unparalleled and unbeatable.

  7. Bibi and Harriet are so underrated.

  8. I think that Ingmar Bergman was a director who understood and was fascinated with women and that is why he worked so well with them on his films. I need to watch more Bergman after reading this post.

  9. By a far cosmic distance, Harriet Andersson ies the most sexy, atractive, astonishinng in all universe, in diferent times and in diferent colors. Wao, I want to be her.

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