bergman's 100th

Museum of Fine Arts showcases iconic director Ingmar Bergman's must-see films

MFAH showcases iconic director Ingmar Bergman's must-see films

Persona Ingmar Bergman
You can catch the iconic Persona during the Bergman screening.  Image courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Last month marked the 100th birthday of Oscar-winning, Swedish filmmaking icon Ingmar Bergman. (Last month also marked the 11th anniversary of his death.) This month, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will pay tribute to Bergman and his work with "Ingmar Bergman's Cinema: A Centennial." 

From now until September 23, the museum will screen 20 of Bergman's classic films, either via digital projection or on good ol' 35mm film. Museums and revival houses all over the world have been holding Bergman retrospectives this year, not only to salute Bergman's legacy, but to get the anticipation going for The Criterion Collection's Ingmar Bergman's Cinema box set, which will be released in November.

"We learned about this about a year ago from the U.S. distributor Janus Films, which holds the rights to Bergman's films, and were immediately enthusiastic about participating," says MFAH film curator Marian Luntz. "It's an opportunity for Houstonians to experience the power and themes of Bergman's films by seeing them on the big screen."

Of course, the MFAH's series will feature many of Bergman's groundbreaking, existential biggies, like The Seventh Seal (1957), Cries and Whispers (1972), Persona (1966), and Wild Strawberries (1957). But Luntz also wanted to throw some of his early work into the mix. "A decision was made to open with a strong representation from his lesser-known early films," she says, "followed by a selection of his best-known films and others that reflect the range of subjects that preoccupied him."

Luntz was hoping that Swedish actress Liv Ullmann, who was also Bergman's partner on-and off-camera, would be available to attend an Ullmann-heavy weekend of films in mid-September. While she declined the invite, the MFAH will screen Liv and Ingmar, a 2012 documentary about their relationship, that weekend.  

Rice Cinema will also get in on the Bergman love and screen films on the weekend of September 7. Says Luntz, "Rice Cinema and MFAH Films have collaborated for many years, and share a dedication to repertory programming." Rice Cinema director Charles Dove chose to screen films that focused on Faro Island, Bergman's home and favored location.

And thanks to The Consulate General of Sweden in Houston, which is partnering with both venues for this retrospective, Ingmar Bergman Foundation CEO Jan Holmberg will speak before the opening-night screening of the 2006 documentary Bergman Island.

If you attend a screening at MFAH and want to know more about Bergman afterwards, you can take a look at the timeline of his life and career that'll be displayed down the hall from Brown Auditorium. There is also a selection of books on Bergman at the museum's Hirsch Library, located on the first floor of the Caroline Wiess Law Building.

"Audiences will learn that he concerned himself with so many topics: romance, the war between the sexes, the theatrical life, family relations, religion, and spirituality," says Luntz. "It's an extraordinary, thought-provoking body of work that leaves a lasting impression."

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"Ingmar Bergman's Cinema: A Centennial" runs Friday, August 24 at at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. 7 pm.