A few words about…™ Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema — in Blu-ray

Take a mortgage, sell a kidney, do what's necessary, but get a copy of this release, while its in print, in its original form. 4 Stars

As full disclosure I’d seen enough of Mr. Bergman’s work by 1968.

My professor, Haig Manoogian, continued running them – again, and again, and again – Seventh Seal, The Magician, Wild Strawberries, along with the work of other Swedish filmmakers, the enchanting 8 1/2, and the ever confusing L’Avventura – until we were able to discuss them shot by shot.

And by the end of my tenure with him, I’d had enough.

It was time for Blow-up, and a sci-fi flick, 2001, and The Wild Bunch, and others.

But no more Bergman.

Never again.

Nope.

And then I’d begin to think about them, and miss them.

Even to a point of collecting the Criterion discs as they were released, along with DVDs of the titles controlled by M-G-M.

But now the world is a different place, and one might consider the new Collection from Criterion as a bit of respite from the world around us. Taking us to better places and different times, in Sweden.

As I was viewing part of Wild Strawberries, one of my favorites, I was amazed at the clarity of the images spawned by these new restoration – whether derived from OCN’s, or fine grains, or whatever.

Seeing the new disc of Wild Strawberries had me thinking how nice it might be to sit back and sip from a glass of ’82 Marguax or a nice domestic Caymus.

These films, and this set are the special.

I was trying to equate the set with something else that sits on my shelves, almost anything of it’s import and quality.

Closest that I could muster was Fox’s beautiful DVD set of the Ford films, but even that isn’t close.

This set is a monumental undertaking, and as the physical media entities contract, and production slows, a huge risk.

But, apparently, the first run is gone, and more will be struck.

The set, which weighs in at around seven pounds, comes with a gorgeous perfect bound book on the subject.

And it’s worth its weight in gold.

Sampling ten or so films, I realized that I’d never seen any of them looking or sounding as they do via this Collection.

I was seeing details in Wild Strawberries, blacks, grays, shadow detail, and overall resolution, that was amazing to behold.

And it should be, as by chance, WS survived as an original camera negative.

Svensk Filmindustri, along with The Swedish Film Institute has stepped up to the plate on these films, doing the necessary restoration work. And I’m certain there was a mountain of it, as these films have been over-loved throughout the decades.

I’ll occasionally chide Criterion for calling everything a “restoration.”

Not here, as this is the real thing.

The set has an MSRP of $300 but can currently (I believe) still be had for half that because of the Barnes & Noble sale, being matched by Amazon.

39 feature films, magnificently reproduced on Blu-ray representing the legacy of one of the great filmmakers.

Take a mortgage, sell a kidney, do what’s necessary, but get a copy of this release, while its in print, in its original form.

Even at list price, that works out to less than $8 a film, and discounted less than $4.

Seriously?

The gorgeous book, the steak knives, and toaster oven are free.

As Mssrs. Ebert & Siskel rarely said…

“Two thumbs up, and they couldn’t possibly be held higher!”

Image – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from earlier DVDs and Blu-ray – Without a doubt!

Very Highly Recommended

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

41 Comments

  1. I pre-ordered this as soon as the Barnes & Noble sale started, but even Criterion's online store price of $240 or even the full MSRP are bargains considering you're getting 39 feature films in HD plus extras and a book. I've only seen four Bergman films prior to receiving the set – The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona, and Fanny and Alexander (theatrical cut). All four are essential. I watched my first new film, Smiles of a Summer Night, a few nights ago.

    The box set is quite a sight – it's actually taller than the laserdisc-sized Lawrence of Arabia and Sgt. Pepper deluxe sets.

    While a set like this is largely possible thanks to Bergman's films being mostly centralized – of the 39 films, only five aren't owned by Svensk Filmindustri – I hope the success of this leads to Criterion issuing similar collections for other filmmakers.

  2. Patrick McCart

    I pre-ordered this as soon as the Barnes & Noble sale started, but even Criterion's online store price of $240 or even the full MSRP are bargains considering you're getting 39 feature films in HD plus extras and a book. I've only seen four Bergman films prior to receiving the set – The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona, and Fanny and Alexander (theatrical cut). All four are essential. I watched my first new film, Smiles of a Summer Night, a few nights ago.

    The box set is quite a sight – it's actually taller than the laserdisc-sized Lawrence of Arabia and Sgt. Pepper deluxe sets.

    While a set like this is largely possible thanks to Bergman's films being mostly centralized – of the 39 films, only five aren't owned by Svensk Filmindustri – I hope the success of this leads to Criterion issuing similar collections for other filmmakers.

    From your lips, Patrick!

  3. I imagine the only other set that this might come close to would be the Herschell Gordon Lewis boxset from Arrow. I bet HG never would’ve dreamt some Swede would dare try to have his cinematic output held up to his…

  4. The only thing more thrilling than this Bergman offering is the fact that each and every boxed-set had rapidly sold-out. Did I want one? You bet. Did I get one? Nope. But this is the very first time that my being left out in the cold has warmed me inside and out. The undertaking of this epic project must have been exhaustive; but its end results have proven to be wildly successful. Such good news for Criterion and all involved; as well as for physical media. Looking forward to February and its second pressing.:)

  5. Our government-owned TV station in Puerto Rico showed most of the early Bergman films so I was weaned on them from an early age. I was thunderstruck by Torment (written by Bergman) as a pre-adolescent, and was amused when the channel showed Winter Light during Holy Week. I saw The Virgin Spring when it premiered (I was 11-12) because the priests in our boarding school asked us not to see it. I thought it extraordinary. And thus I began to follow Bergman throughout my life.
    I welcomed this set in my house and so should anyone who has any regard for great films. The masterpieces far outweigh the duds.

  6. Like Bujaki (#11), I watched a lot of Bergman on one of our local TV stations, which showed almost all the films available to that point (1970) on something that was called "International Theatre," and which aired long after I was supposed to already be in bed. It included Seventh Seal, Virgin Spring, Monika and Wild Strawberries. The latter I had for a long time on VHS, and watched it multiple times. I also remember seeing, and have kept it in mind ever since, a scene in To Joy, where the envious husband is finally given his chance to solo with the orchestra – and he blows it. The playing for that scene was very good, but you can hear, and see on his face, that he knows he hasn't quite nailed it. Brilliant acting and direction. Having the boxed set means I can now gift my son with some of my old discs. I'm going to start him off on Fanny & Alexander for Christmas.

  7. I believe Criterion has a half-price sale on their website around February … But I pre-ordered this and Ambersons pretty much on day one of the B&N sale …Now to find the time to watch the Bergman set …

  8. bujaki

    Our government-owned TV station in Puerto Rico showed most of the early Bergman films so I was weaned on them from an early age. I was thunderstruck by Torment (written by Bergman) as a pre-adolescent, and was amused when the channel showed Winter Light during Holy Week. I saw The Virgin Spring when it premiered (I was 11-12) because the priests in our boarding school asked us not to see it. I thought it extraordinary. And thus I began to follow Bergman throughout my life.
    I welcomed this set in my house and so should anyone who has any regard for great films. The masterpieces far outweigh the duds.

    The best praise I can give for The Virgin Spring is that if I told someone who has not seen the film exactly how the story will unfold it would not lessen the film's power at all. I think what Bergman accomplished is a film that's a parable. Timeless. I'll be getting around to it in my viewing schedule this weekend.

  9. bgart13

    I imagine the only other set that this might come close to would be the Herschell Gordon Lewis boxset from Arrow. I bet HG never would’ve dreamt some Swede would dare try to have his cinematic output held up to his…

    Going quite a few years back, the Murnau/Borzage DVD box set from Fox might have actually set the template. That one, though, supposedly sold poorly, and was (also supposedly) one of the reasons Fox reduced their output.

  10. I was very fortunate to get this thru Amazon, before stock ran out. It is an exquisite set, with so much effort and thought into the presentation, sequence, etc that it is mind-boggling. Taking my time going thru the films (in the order presented), and then after each film reading the respective section of the book.

  11. Robert Harris

    […]Svensk Filmindustri, along with The Swedish Film Institute has stepped up to the plate on these films, doing the necessary restoration work. And I'm certain there was a mountain of it, as these films have been over-loved throughout the decades.[…]

    I guess we'd need a Bergman expert for the answer, but what is to come of those few remaining Bergman films not found within this collection? This question is not being written as a spoiler, detractor or argument against this flawless 7 pound baby, as delivered to us by Criterion. But as I eagerly await the second pressing; with its February due date; I find myself envisioning a junior collection to compliment the magnificence of their Ingmar Bergman's Cinema. Could Criterion actually capture such isolated contracts in conjunction with those who maintain the rights to these few remaining titles? IMHO, for Criterion to pursue this second boxed-set would be a coup de gras of completion.

  12. Patrick McCart

    There's four 1946-1950 films omitted (all seeming to be SI or Folkets properties), the 1976 film Face to Face (currently licensed from Paramount to Olive Films), and two TV movies (both owned by SVT, it seems).

    One of the greatest directors in film history, Ingmar Bergman had an enormous oeuvre, consisting of productions for film, theater, television, radio, ballet, opera and books. He also made documentaries for TV – the two Fårö Documents are included in the set. The Ingmar Bergman Archives (Taschen, 2008) remains the definitive reference of Bergman’s prodigious output, with contributing editors Birgitta Steene, Peter Cowie, Bengt Forslund and Ulla Åberg listing Bergman’s whole life, from 1918 until his death in 2007.

    The films missing from the set are mostly from his first “apprentice” phase from 1944-1951, when he made 10 films. (The films are numbered according to their place in Bergman’s chronological output). The films missing, with two exceptions, were not distributed by Svensk Filmindustri, who, together with Svenska Filminstitutet, were responsible for restoring and making available all of the masters in the Criterion set. The Ingmar Bergman Taschen Archives list 46 films in his filmography, not including the two Fårö Documents. The nine films missing from the set are as follows:

    1. Torment (Hets); released as Frenzy (UK) – 1944. Distributed by Svensk Filmindustri (Sweden), Oxford Films (USA)
    Bergman wrote the Torment screenplay, was the assistant director and scriptboy on the film. However, it is really director Alf Sjöberg’s film, so not completely an Ingmar Bergman film. Probably the reason it is not included in the set.

    3. It Rains On Our Love (Det regnar på vår kärlek); released as Man with an Umbrella (UK) – 1946. Distributed by Svenska AB Nordisk Tonefilm (Sweden)
    Ingmar Bergman and Herbert Grevenius adapted Norwegian playwright Oskar Braathen’s play Bra Mennesker (Decent People). It won a Charlie (Swedish Oscar) for the film in 1946. Not Svensk Filmindustri.

    5. Music in Darkness (Musik i mörker); released as Night is My Future (USA/UK) – 1948. Distributed by Terrafilm/Stjärnfilm (Sweden), Embassy Pictures/Janus Films (USA)
    Ingmar Bergman and Dagmar Edqvist adapted the screenplay after her 1946 novel of the same name. It was an entry at the Venice Film Festival in 1948 but won no prize. Even though Janus films has the distribution rights in the USA, it is not a Svensk Filmindustri title.

    7. Prison (Fängelse); released as The Devil’s Wanton (USA/UK) – 1949. Distributed by Terrafilm (Sweden), Embassy Pictures, Janus Films (USA).
    This was the first time Ingmar Bergman had written an original screenplay, after his debut Torment. Again, even though Janus films has the distribution rights in the USA, it is not a Svensk Filmindustri title.

    10. This Can't Happen Here (Sånt hander inte här); released as High Tension (UK) – 1950. Distributed by Svensk Filmindustri (Sweden).
    Ingmar Bergman said in an interview that this was the only film from his whole life that he genuinely regretted making.

    The made-for-TV Fårö Documents from 1970 and 1979 are not listed as part of his “film” or “television” production. Bergman was buried on Fårö on August 18, 2007.

    37.Face to Face (Ansikte mot ansikte) – 1976. Distributed by Cinematograph (Sweden), Dino de Laurentiis/Paramount (USA)
    The major omission from the Criterion set, the reason being that this was distributed by Bergman’s own company, Cinematograph, in Sweden, not Svensk Filmindustri. Dino de Laurentiis and Paramount were responsible for distribution in in USA. It won the 1977 Golden Globe as best Foreign Film of the Year and starred all of Bergman’s regular cast. There is a longer TV version running 175 minutes, 40 minutes longer than the film version. In January 1976, Bergman was arrested for tax evasion. He fought the tax authorities but they refused to budge and he left Sweden in April.

    43. The Blessed Ones (De två saliga) – 1986. Distributed by Swedish TV (Sweden)
    Made for Swedish TV.

    44. In The Presence of a Clown (Larmar och gör sig till) – 1997. Distributed by Swedish TV (Sweden)
    Made for Swedish TV.

    45. The Image Makers (Bildmakarna) – 2000. Distributed by Swedish TV (Sweden)
    Made for Swedish TV.

  13. Actually, the first ever Ingmar Bergman "film" was probably Drama In The Deserted House. Around the mid-1930s, friends Ingmar Bergman (writer/director) and Rolf Åhgren (photographer) made two film scripts consisting of simple plot texts. Ingmar, Rolf, Margaretha Bergman (Ingmar's sister), and Margareta's friend Liliane had worked together on puppet theatre, so film was a natural extension for them.

    View attachment 53102

  14. titch

    One of the greatest directors in film history, Ingmar Bergman […]

    Thanks to Patrick McCart (Post #20) and titch (Post #21 and 22) for filling in the chronological and contractual gaps.
    Just another reason for why I dig HTF; for when an expert is asked for, one or two are bound to come forward.
    Excellent information from both.:thumbs-up-smiley:

    Ken Koc

    […] Months ago I said it was the boxset of the year…I think it is the boxset of the decade.[…]

    And what was "the boxed-set of the decade" prior?;)

  15. titch

    One of the greatest directors in film history, Ingmar Bergman […]

    Thanks to Patrick McCart (Post #20) and titch (Post #21 and 22) for filling in the chronological and contractual gaps.
    Just another reason for why I dig HTF; for when an expert is asked for, one or two are bound to come forward.
    Excellent information from both.:thumbs-up-smiley:

    Ken Koc

    […] Months ago I said it was the boxset of the year…I think it is the boxset of the decade.[…]

    And what was "the boxed-set of the decade" prior?;)

  16. Ken Koc

    I watched THE SILENCE last night. As powerful and controversial as it was in 1963. One of DP Sven Nykvist's best. Months ago I said it was the boxset of the year…I think it is the boxset of the decade.View attachment 53125

    I totally agree with you – and this taking into consideration that Criterion has done some outstanding collections before. The best ever boxset before the Ingmar Bergman's Cinema set is Criterion's superb boxset: Essential Art House, to mark 50 years of Janus Films, which came out in 2006. This was essentially "film school in a box" – everything Robert Harris had to sit through as a youngster!

    https://www.criterion.com/boxsets/305-essential-art-house-50-years-of-janus-films

    However, the set is only available in DVD versions of the films and at an SRP of $850 (currently $470 on Amazon), is far more expensive than the Bergman set. I also agree with other commentators, that it is really uplifting that the first printing of Ingmar Bergman's Cinema sold out within one week of going on sale. No one saw that coming!

  17. Ken Koc

    I watched THE SILENCE last night. As powerful and controversial as it was in 1963. One of DP Sven Nykvist's best. Months ago I said it was the boxset of the year…I think it is the boxset of the decade.View attachment 53125

    I totally agree with you – and this taking into consideration that Criterion has done some outstanding collections before. The best ever boxset before the Ingmar Bergman's Cinema set is Criterion's superb boxset: Essential Art House, to mark 50 years of Janus Films, which came out in 2006. This was essentially "film school in a box" – everything Robert Harris had to sit through as a youngster!

    https://www.criterion.com/boxsets/305-essential-art-house-50-years-of-janus-films

    However, the set is only available in DVD versions of the films and at an SRP of $850 (currently $470 on Amazon), is far more expensive than the Bergman set. I also agree with other commentators, that it is really uplifting that the first printing of Ingmar Bergman's Cinema sold out within one week of going on sale. No one saw that coming!

  18. titch

    I totally agree with you – and this taking into consideration that Criterion has done some outstanding collections before. The best ever boxset before the Ingmar Bergman's Cinema set is Criterion's superb boxset: Essential Art House, to mark 50 years of Janus Films, which came out in 2006. This was essentially "film school in a box" – everything Robert Harris had to sit through as a youngster!

    https://www.criterion.com/boxsets/305-essential-art-house-50-years-of-janus-films

    However, the set is only available in DVD versions of the films and at an SRP of $850 (currently $470 on Amazon), is far more expensive than the Bergman set. I also agree with other commentators, that it is really uplifting that the first printing of Ingmar Bergman's Cinema sold out within one week of going on sale. No one saw that coming!

    Yup, I'd have to go along with your citing of "Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films" boxed-set as being the answer.
    Albeit the "Essential" is priced higher than the Bergman, its still an extraordinarily fair price for 50 films.
    Be it "Essential" or Bergman, there isn't a single individual could gather such a comprehensive collection on their own without paying the crazy dollars; plus, they even throw in a book.

    Well, one thing is for certain; the Criterion boxed-sets have ruled "The Boxed-Set of the Decade" title for two consecutive decades.
    Wanna throw their Olympics boxed-set into the mix? Okay, then, let us now present the laurels and scores:

    Gold: Ingmar Bergman's Cinema
    Silver: 100 Years of Olympics (1912-2012)
    Bronze: Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films
    :cheers:

  19. titch

    I totally agree with you – and this taking into consideration that Criterion has done some outstanding collections before. The best ever boxset before the Ingmar Bergman's Cinema set is Criterion's superb boxset: Essential Art House, to mark 50 years of Janus Films, which came out in 2006. This was essentially "film school in a box" – everything Robert Harris had to sit through as a youngster!

    https://www.criterion.com/boxsets/305-essential-art-house-50-years-of-janus-films

    However, the set is only available in DVD versions of the films and at an SRP of $850 (currently $470 on Amazon), is far more expensive than the Bergman set. I also agree with other commentators, that it is really uplifting that the first printing of Ingmar Bergman's Cinema sold out within one week of going on sale. No one saw that coming!

    Yup, I'd have to go along with your citing of "Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films" boxed-set as being the answer.
    Albeit the "Essential" is priced higher than the Bergman, its still an extraordinarily fair price for 50 films.
    Be it "Essential" or Bergman, there isn't a single individual could gather such a comprehensive collection on their own without paying the crazy dollars; plus, they even throw in a book.

    Well, one thing is for certain; the Criterion boxed-sets have ruled "The Boxed-Set of the Decade" title for two consecutive decades.
    Wanna throw their Olympics boxed-set into the mix? Okay, then, let us now present the laurels and scores:

    Gold: Ingmar Bergman's Cinema
    Silver: 100 Years of Olympics (1912-2012)
    Bronze: Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films
    :cheers:

  20. To be fair, Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema is in a different league than any other box. Janus 50 was a great collection of films, but wildly varied in master quality and zero supplements. Olympics uses new masters and new restorations, but no supplements. Literally the only thing making this set imperfect other than the few omissions is not including De Duva: The Dove as an extra.

  21. Got my flown in from USA last week and it went out before the Nov 20 release date. The box has stamped on it not to display before Nov 20 2018. I already hd one or two of the Blu Rays before they announced the box set(happens so often!!0>

    I first saw Bergman at home on 16mm mid-1970s when I used have a free borrow of European films for a weekend from a government film library. Watch them with my late parents over Sunday lunch beaming the images on the wall over our gas heater. My parents loved what I showed too Such memories!!
    .

  22. bujaki

    I have so many fond memories of De Duva. What a great supplement, and a loving one, it would have made!

    I wish the Woody Allen one was available as that was MY introduction to Ingmar …

  23. I don't think I've ever seen a Criterion 2nd Pressing officially listed as a new Pre-order and a separate availibility date.

    I knew something was strange when BN not only allowed Backorders and with an Actual Date Available and BN does neither of those for just plain OOS titles. Somewhere right after it went OOS i mentioned it was acting like a New preorder rather than the usual OOS/waiting for new items, but I don't remember seeing that page on Criterion.com before.

    Since Flash have often been times with High Profile releases I wonder if they might consider Bergman or the Berlin Alexanderplatz as the anchor to the sale?

  24. David Norman

    I don't think I've ever seen a Criterion 2nd Pressing officially listed as a new Pre-order and a separate availibility date.

    I knew something was strange when BN not only allowed Backorders and with an Actual Date Available and BN does neither of those for just plain OOS titles. Somewhere right after it went OOS i mentioned it was acting like a New preorder rather than the usual OOS/waiting for new items, but I don't remember seeing that page on Criterion.com before.

    Since Flash have often been times with High Profile releases I wonder if they might consider Bergman or the Berlin Alexanderplatz as the anchor to the sale?

    I'm just wondering if Criterion is willing to loose that much money as I suspect that they would not make anything (other than their reputation at the $150 pricepoint)

    DD is currently offering it at ca. $176.00 + shipping as a backorder

  25. David Norman

    I don't think I've ever seen a Criterion 2nd Pressing officially listed as a new Pre-order and a separate availibility date.

    I'm wondering if this is the fastest they've sold an entire print run. Also, not that I'm expecting we will ever know the answer to this, how many copies did they actually print? They certainly had to expect some bump in sales when word got out that it was region free, so I assume they had planned on that when they decided on the initial print run, and still underestimated demand.

  26. Derrick King

    I'm wondering if this is the fastest they've sold an entire print run. Also, not that I'm expecting we will ever know the answer to this, how many copies did they actually print? They certainly had to expect some bump in sales when word got out that it was region free, so I assume they had planned on that when they decided on the initial print run, and still underestimated demand.

    Don't know any of those for sure.

    The most common number I've seen with Bergman was 2000 sets, but I have no idea if that's accurate or yet another Inter-rumor. Still $300K (minimum) in gross sales seems pretty good for a specialty item like this

  27. PMF

    Thanks to Patrick McCart (Post #20) and titch (Post #21 and 22) for filling in the chronological and contractual gaps.
    Just another reason for why I dig HTF; for when an expert is asked for, one or two are bound to come forward.
    Excellent information from both.:thumbs-up-smiley:

    And what was "the boxed-set of the decade" prior?;)



    Murnau/Borzage @ Fox (standard DVD).

  28. There are many TV movies absent, and they'd make a fantastic companion set. All of these are good to excellent:

    Herr Sleeman kommer (1957) Mr. Sleeman Is Coming
    Venetianskan (1958) The Venetian
    Oväder (1960) Storm
    Ett drömspel (1963) A Dream Play
    Hustruskolan (1983) School for Girls
    De två saliga (1986) The Blessed Ones
    Markisinnan de Sade (1992) Madame de Sade
    The Last Gasp (1995)
    In the Presence of a Clown (1997)
    Bildmakarna (2000) The Image Makers
    Spöksonaten (2007) The Ghost Sonata

    Those are the ones I really want. Prison is a good movie and it's a shame it didn't make the set, and while I'm not a big fan of Face to Face it does feel like a big gap. I love Torment but I understand not including it because Bergman didn't direct it (I kept the DVD from the Eclipse set). The remaining films (This Can't Happen Here, It Rains on Our Love, Music in Darkness) just aren't that good. Even though he's my favorite director, I'm not enough of a completist to miss them.

  29. Robert Harris

    As full disclosure I'd seen enough of Mr. Bergman's work by 1968.

    My professor, Haig Manoogian, continued running them – again, and again, and again –

    I didn’t realize you went to NYU SOA. I was there a few years later, although Haig wasn’t teaching the Film History classes at that time. I think he taught my final term film production class.

    I was at the Art for a SMPTE meeting a few years ago. They cut the theater up into separate rooms and I don’t think they can even project film anymore and the video screens are relatively small. That’s too bad because I remember the 16mm prints looking outstanding, even on that large screen. I remember Greed, Metropolis, The General and lots of others all looking fantastic. Unfortunately, my Film History teacher was obsessed with the geometry of images and really didn’t want to hear about anything else.

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