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  • Bergman 101, a selected video filmography tracing Bergman's career, narrated by Cowie

Bergman Island

Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Marie Nyreröd
Starring: Ingmar Bergman
2006 | 86 Minutes | Licensor: Svensk Filmindustri

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $19.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #477
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: June 16, 2009
Review Date: June 7, 2009

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Just four years before his death, legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman sat down with Swedish documentarian Marie Nyreröd in his home on Fårö Island to discuss his films, his fears, his regrets, and his ongoing artistic passion. This resulted in the most breathtakingly candid series of interviews that the famously reclusive director ever took part in, later edited into the feature-length film Bergman Island. In-depth, revealing, and packed with choice anecdotes about Bergman's films as well as his personal life, Nyreröd's documentary is an unforgettable final glimpse of a man who transformed cinema.

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The 2006 documentary Bergman Island is presented in the aspect ratio of approximately 1.77:1 on this dual-layer disc and has been enhanced for widescreen televisions. Unfortunately this is only the 83-minute version distributed theatrically and not the full 3 part TV series that appeared on Swedish televisions (which was about 3 hours long, give or take a bit.) More about that version in the supplements section of this review.

The interview portions of the film look to have been shot digitally so there’s no damage to speak of. Clips from Bergman’s films are shown occasionally throughout and the quality of those segments vary depending on the quality of the source but this wasn’t a huge concern.

Colours look quite good, possibly the strongest aspect of the picture, looking quite vibrant and bold. Sharpness and detail is also quite good, much better than I would have expected for a documentary that was originally shot as a TV program.

The key problem with the transfer is that it’s interlaced, which causes a few issues, though they’re not too bad. Since the film is rather static in nature (there isn’t a lot of movement) it’s not too noticeable, but jagged edges are easily apparent on buildings, and the occasional quick movement presents a ghosting effect. This is disappointing, but I’m not sure if it’s something that may be inherent in the source or was all Criterion could get their hands on.

I actually don’t consider this a deal breaker, though, and think the transfer is surprisingly decent otherwise and still better than I thought it would have been.


All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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The DVD comes with a standard Swedish 2.0 stereo track and it serves its purpose. The track is mono in nature but this wasn’t a surprise. Audio quality is at least good, presenting strong voices and music.



This release is pretty barebones presenting one feature simply called Bergman 101, which is an updated version of the Bergman Filmography visual essay that appeared on Criterion’s first DVD for The Seventh Seal. The feature was a quick crash course on Bergman’s career, going through a good chunk of his work and also looking into his style and techniques. That presentation was a text feature made by Bergman scholar Peter Cowie in 1987 for the original laserdisc release of that film with photos and a couple of film clips mixed in, navigated through using your remote. It’s now a full video presentation with voice narration by Peter Cowie. In essence it’s the same, Cowie repeating a lot of his notes that appeared in the original presentation. But he does expand on it quite a bit, talking further about Bergman’s childhood and getting into more detail about certain films and techniques (like Bergman’s use of mirrors.) There’s also more photos and more clips from his films. The original “visual essay” presented clips from Wild Strawberries and The Magician, which featured commentary by Cowie. Those clips appear again, though slightly different (and in much better shape, looking as though they come from newer transfers) but this new essay also includes clips from Summer Interlude, The Silence, Scenes From a Marriage, and Fanny and Alexander. The essay also expands on his films after 1987, all the way up to Saraband, and then his death. Running 35-minutes it’s an excellent expansion on the previous feature, which I considered a great introduction to the director. Most certainly worth viewing.

There is also a short 3-page insert with a very short (double spaced) essay by director Marie Nyreröd, who reflects on interviewing Bergman and how she became the one the reclusive director agreed to do the documentary with.

Unfortunately Criterion has chosen not to include the complete television series sticking to the shorter 83-minute film that played theatrically. I haven’t seen the full feature but would have liked to, since it has a section devoted to his theatre work, which Bergman considered the most important aspect of his career. According to the notes the three sections each focused on one aspect of Bergman, the first focusing on his film career, the next on his theatre career, and the third on his life on Fårö Island. The domestic distributors were really only interested in his film career and his life on the island so Nyreröd edited it down, and apparently both her and Bergman approved of it. This is all well and good but I would have loved to have viewed the whole thing in its entirety and I hope it might see the light of day in North America.



This is a bit of an odd release as Criterion has actually included this film as a special feature on their new 2-disc release of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (the “Bergman 101” feature is also on there.) It is a good documentary if brief, and it does deserve its own home video release, but I still feel I have to steer people away from it. While it’s cheap (it’s MSRP is less than $20, which means you may be able to find it for $15 or less) for $10 more you can get the new remastered 2-disc DVD for The Seventh Seal and get this film. That DVD is a far better bargain.

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