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:
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.