Early Bergman Box Set [5 Discs] [Criterion Collection] [DVD]

Ingmar Bergman was arguably the most acclaimed and accomplished filmmaker of his generation; his best work (such as Persona, Scenes from a Marriage, Cries and Whispers and Wild Strawberries) changed the rules in how human emotion was portrayed on screen, and his elegant but powerful visual style, his poet's sense of rhythm and his gift for drawing remarkable performances from his actors influenced dozens of notable filmmakers. However, while Bergman's work came to the attention of American audiences in the mid-Fifties when films such as The Seventh Seal and Smiles of a Summer Night began playing art houses in the U.S., he'd been making movies since 1946, and many titles from his first decade as a director have been all but impossible for North American film enthusiasts to see. The Criterion Collection, America's most prestigious home video company, have launched their new Eclipse line (a collection of multi-disc sets featuring lesser-known works from important filmmakers) with Early Bergman, a set of five titles from the master which have been little-seen in the United States -- 1944's Hets (aka Torment), directed by Alf Sjoberg from Bergman's screenplay (his first to be brought to the screen) and 1946's Kris (aka Crisis), 1948's Hamnstad (aka Port Of Call), 1949's Torst (aka Thirst) and 1949's Till Gladje (aka To Joy), four of Bergman's earliest directorial assignments. As cinema, these five films are fascinating and rewarding stuff; Alf Sjoberg's bolder visual style sets Torment apart from the others four features, but it shows Bergman's dominant themes of fractured emotional interaction and inner turmoil were already firmly in place, while the other four pictures reveal how quickly Bergman's very distinctive approach began to manifest itself, and Thirst and To Joy are compelling thumbnail sketches of notions Bergman would explore with greater depth in later films. As a DVD presentation, while this set lacks the bells and whistles that are so much a part of Criterion's best known releases, the debut Eclipse set is quietly impressive. All five films have been transferred to disc in their original full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and while the source materials show occasional flaws on Torment and Crisis, the transfers themselves are splendid, capturing a rich spectrum of gray tones and accurately reflecting the original look of these movies. The audio for all five films has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono, and sounds as good as the vintage of the masters permits. Each film is presented in its original Swedish, with optional English subtitles. No bonus materials are included on these discs (though each case features a short essay on the film in question), which Eclipse cites as an effort to keep these sets affordable, but despite the relative austerity of this package, the presentation has been assembled with obvious care and these films are essential viewing for anyone interested in Bergman's career or classic International filmmaking of the 1940's; this is bold and brilliant work, and Criterion are to be thanked for making it accessible to American film fans.
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Overview

Synopsis

Hets
The Swedish-language picture Torment (AKA Hets, 1944) marked one of the first credited screenwriting efforts of the then 26-year-old scenarist Ingmar Bergman, and one of the broadest international successes of the gifted Swedish director Alf Sjöberg; it also launched the onscreen efforts of two young Scandinavian actors, Alf Kjellin and Mai Zetterling. This tragic drama concerns the ill-fated romance between student Jan-Erik Widgren (Kjellin) and Bertha Olsson (Zetterling), a slightly older, alcoholic widow who works at a tobacco store, and whom Jan-Erik meets when he discovers her unconscious in the street. The premise of the film finds Jan-Erik struggling valiantly to maintain his ongoing sexual affair with Bertha, while grappling, on the side, with the machinations of a sadistic and abusive professor, Caligula (Stig Jarrel. Events take an ugly turn when Jan-Erik discovers that Bertha is actually Caligula's lover - setting the stage for tragedy on the night of her booze-soaked orgy with the old man. Ultimately, both lovers are relentlessly victimized by the professor's doings. The cast also includes: Olof Winnerstrand, Hugo Bjorne, Stig Olin, Olav Riego, Marta Arbin and Nils Dahlgren. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi

Kris
Ingmar Bergman made his directorial debut with this 1946 drama which found a number of his key themes already in place. Ingeborg (Dagny Lind) is a middle-aged woman living in a small Swedish community where she supports herself giving piano lessons and running a boarding house. Ingeborg has devoted much of her life to looking after Nelly (Inga Landgre), a teenage girl who was abandoned by her mother Jenny (Marianne Lofgren) when she was a baby. Ingeborg deeply loves Nelly and think of her as her daughter, and she's distraught when Jenny appears and announces she intends to reclaim Nelly and take her to Stockholm, where she now runs a successful beauty salon. Despite Ingeborg's pleas that her poor health limits the time she can spend with Nelly, Jenny is adamant, and the teenager decides to go, though her decision is largely motivated by her mixed feelings about Ulf (Allan Bohlin), an older veterinarian who wants to marry her, and her sudden infatuation with Jack (Stig Olin), a mysterious charmer who is a friend and distant relative of Jenny. Kris (aka Crisis) was adapted from a popular stage play by Leck Fisher; the production was hampered by Bergman's inexperience, and his mentor Victor Sjostrom was brought in to supervise the last few weeks of shooting. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Till Glädje
Pride, ambition and creative temperament take their toll on a marriage in this drama written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. Stig Eriksson (Stig Olin) is a violinist who, after being hired to perform with an orchestra led by demanding conductor Sonderby (Victor Sjostrom), meets another new members of the ensemble, fellow violinist Marta Olsson (Mai-Britt Nilsson). Stig is attracted to Marta, and she has similar feelings for him, though she needs to be assured his interest is not merely sexual before she invites him to move in with him. Stig believes he has the talent to become an orchestral soloist, while Marta plays for the love of music and has no illusions about her potential for stardom. After they marry and Marta gives birth to twins, Stig persuades Sonderby to give him the demanding assignment of lead soloist for a concert featuring Mendelssohn's String Concerto; Stig's performance is all but disastrous, and as his hopes are shattered he questions his talent and his potential, despite Marta and Sonderby's reassurances about his gifts as an ensemble musician. In time, Stig's disappointment and the responsibilities of parenthood lead him into an affair with Nelly (Margit Carlquist), the libertine wife of fellow musician Mikael (John Ekman). Till Gladje (aka To Joy) features a classical score dominated by the works of Beethoven, with Mozart and Smetana also included; Bergman's passion for classical music would also figure into his later films Autumn Sonata and his adaptation of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Hamnstad
In this early feature from Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman, Gosta (Bengt Eklund) is a sailor with the merchant marine who has decided to take some time off from sailing after eight years at sea. Working the docks until he can find a better job, one Saturday night Gosta visits a dance hall and meets Berit (Nine-Christine Jonsson), a beautiful but troubled young woman. Berit has a history as a juvenile delinquent and has served time in a home for girls, where she met her close friend Gertrud (Mimi Nelson). Berit soon becomes infatuated with Gosta, and his strong, well-grounded nature seems to be the stabilizing influence she needs. However, in time Gosta learns about Berit's checkered past and meets her mother (Berta Hall), who makes no secret of her contempt for her daughter. Gosta begins having second thoughts about his relationship with Berit after she unwittingly involves him in the death of Gertrud, who succumbs after receiving an illegal abortion. Hamnstad (aka Port of Call and Harbor City) marks the first time Bergman worked with cinematographer Gunnar Fischer, who would photograph many of his most memorable films of the 1950's. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Törst
A couple's relationship begin to unravel during a rail trip through Europe in this drama, an early work from legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. Rut (Eva Henning) is a former ballet dancer whose career has been sidelined due to an injured knee, while her husband Bertil (Birger Malmsten) is a slightly prickly academic. Rut and Bertil are traveling though Germany from Switzerland while their friends at home are celebrating the rowdy annual observance of Midsummer; much of Europe is still mired in poverty and disarray in the wake of World War II, and their vacation generates more tension between the two than positive feelings. As the couple's train rolls through the ravaged nation, flashbacks introduce us to other characters in the drama -- Raoul (Bengt Eklund), a military officer with no conscience who has an affair with Rut, and Viola (Birgit Tengroth), a friend of Rut from her days in dancing school who had a fling with Bertil and has fallen into a deep depression over her romantic and sexual confusion. Torst (aka Thirst) was adapted from a short story by Birgit Tengroth, who also appeared in the film as Viola. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Stig Järrel
    Stig Järrel - Caligula
  • Alf Kjellin
    Alf Kjellin - Jan-Erik Widgren
  • Mai Zetterling
    Mai Zetterling - Bertha Olsson
  • Image coming soon
    Olof Winnerstrand - Headmaster
  • Image coming soon
    Gösta Cederlund - Pippi
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