Filmmaker Ingmar Bergman Dies at 89 | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 30.07.2007
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Filmmaker Ingmar Bergman Dies at 89

Ingmar Bergman, one of the most influential film directors of the 20th century, died at his home on the Swedish island of Faaro, at age 89.

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The director in 2001, prior to celebrating his 85th birthday

Bergman was widely acclaimed for films such as "The Seventh Seal" (1957) and "Fanny and Alexander" (1982), which won that year's Oscar for best foreign film. His films won a total of three Oscars, as well as the Berlin Film Festival's Golden Bear, Venice's Golden Lion and France's Cesar.

The director also was awarded the Dutch Erasmus Prize for contribution to European culture, and France's Legion of Honor.

Deutscher Filmpreis 1961

Bergman accepted a film prize in Berlin in 1961

Bergman's daughter Eva Bergman told Sweden's TT news agency the director had passed away "peacefully" at his home on Faarö, but did not specify the cause of death.

Strict childhood

For many movie buffs, Bergman was among the great auteur filmmakers of the 1950s and 1960s, alongside Federico Fellini, Luis Bunuel and Jean-Luc Godard. The general public found much of his work remote, due to the demanding nature of his work, in particular the gravity of his themes.

Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born in Uppsala, Sweden, on July 14, 1918, the second of three children. His strict childhood -- his father was a clergyman; he was locked in dark closets for infractions such as bed-wetting -- and family relationships influenced him profoundly and were reflected in all his work.

Ingmar Bergmann, schwedischer Regisseur

In his work, Bergman eventually rejected religion

At Stockholm University he discovered his vocation, dropping out of his literature and art history classes and entering the dramatic society instead. Although he was world famous for his contribution to cinema, he was an active and productive stage director all his life, and occasionally directed the most prestigious theaters in Sweden, including the Malmö Dramatic Theater and the Stockholm Royal Dramatic Theater.

Bergman directed his first film, "Crisis," in 1945 but it was not until 1956 that he won international acclaim when "Smiles of a Summer Night" was shown at the Cannes Festival. For more than three decades he produced an average of a movie a year. His films were often considered dark and incomprehensible, with their focus on love, loneliness, anguish and relations with God.

Women occupied a central role in his work, which often centered on the mysteries of the female soul. Mother-son relationships also featured prominently, as did his experiences from five marriages.

Famous liaisons

Offstage, Bergman's private life was often thrust into the limelight. He was married five times to beautiful and gifted women and was known for liaisons with his leading actresses. He had nine children that he acknowledged as his own, including a daughter by actress Liv Ullmann.

Bergman made profoundly personal films following his intellectual and spiritual preoccupations and tracing his loss of faith in God. "The Seventh Seal," "The Virgin Spring" (1960), "Through a Glass Darkly" (1961), "Winter Light" (1963) and "The Silence" (1963) all lead progressively to a rejection of religious belief, leaving only the conviction that human life is haunted by "a virulent, active evil."

With "Wild Strawberries" (1957), Bergman turned increasingly to psychological dilemmas and ethical issues in human and social relations once religion proved a failure.

Ingmar Bergmann, schwedischer Regisseur

At a press conference in Stockholm in 1998

For many years Bergman declined attractive offers to work abroad. But in 1976, after being charged by the Swedish authorities with tax evasion, he moved to Germany and worked as the director of the Munich Residenz Theater. After a six-year exile he returned to Sweden and remained there until his death.

Officially "retired", he continued to work tirelessly, directing television plays, writing screenplays -- such as the autobiographical saga "The Best Intentions" which, reduced to three-hour film length, won the 1992 Cannes Golden Palm for director Bille August.

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