Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema

Disc 21, The Touch / The Serpent's Egg

Part of a multi-title set

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Synopsis

In honor of Ingmar Bergman’s one-hundredth birthday, the Criterion Collection is proud to present the most comprehensive collection of his films ever released on home video. One of the most revelatory voices to emerge from the postwar explosion of international art-house cinema, Bergman was a master storyteller who startled the world with his stark intensity and naked pursuit of the most profound metaphysical and spiritual questions. The struggles of faith and morality, the nature of dreams, and the agonies and ecstasies of human relationships—Bergman explored these subjects in films ranging from comedies whose lightness and complexity belie their brooding hearts to groundbreaking formal experiments and excruciatingly intimate explorations of family life.

Arranged as a film festival with opening and closing nights bookending double features and centerpieces, this selection spans six decades and thirty-nine films—including such celebrated classics as The Seventh Seal, Persona, and Fanny and Alexander alongside previously unavailable works like Dreams, The Rite, and Brink of Life. Accompanied by a 248-page book with essays on each program, as well as by more than thirty hours of supplemental features, Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema traces themes and images across Bergman’s career, blazing trails through the master’s unequaled body of work for longtime fans and newcomers alike.

Picture 7/10

The 21st dual-layer disc in Criterion’s giant box set Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema presents the director’s two English-language films, 1971’s The Touch and 1977’s The Serpent’s Egg. The film’s are respectively presented in their original aspect ratios of 1.85:1 and 1.66:1, both with 1080p/24hz high-definition encodes sourced from 2K restorations. The Touch’s restoration was scanned from a 35mm interpositive, The Serpent’s Egg from a 35mm duplicate negative.

Both presentations end up looking good, though I suspect the two being forced to share the same disc, limiting the amount of space for each film, has led to compression issues. I haven’t seen BFI’s disc for The Touch but comparing The Serpent’s Egg here to Arrow’s own release the problems around compression come front and center.

In general, the image for The Serpent's Egg has a strong level of detail, the image remaining sharp and stable. The restoration has cleaned up just about everything, a few minor marks and that remaining. A sequence about 38-minutes in takes on a dupier look, as though the image has been zoomed in on, but this was also present in Arrow’s presentation. The film’s colour scheme is very limited, the picture looking dreary and dark by design, but saturation is still excellent. Black levels are good, though the shadows can be a bit muddy, more than likely inherent to the photography.

There is some minor macroblocking in some of the darker areas of a handful of shots, but this also popped up to a degree in Arrow’s, so it could be in the master. Still, where the two differ (outside of the Arrow being a slight bit greener in its colours) is that Criterion’s grain is not as cleanly rendered here as it is in the Arrow’s. It looks decent enough here, but it does have a certain sharpened look to it, coming off a bit blockier. Arrow’s looks finer and cleaner, which seems to lead to their presentation being better in rendering some finer details.

Criterion’s presentation is still decent, though, it’s just that in a side-by-side Arrow’s is a little bit better.

The Touch is a brighter film, though still limited in its colours (it has more of an autumn-like palette). Because of its brighter nature it ends up offering more details, even in its darker shots, and the restoration work looks to have also been thorough. But, like The Serpent’s Egg, grain could be a bit cleaner, it coming off a little noisy in spots.

Audio 7/10

Both films come with lossless PCM 1.0 monaural soundtracks. Neither is all that dynamic, but they’re both clean and sharp, dialogue showing excellent fidelity. The Serpent’s Egg features some jazzy music numbers, both during cabaret shows in the film or as overlays, and the music does feature some surprising range. Damage is not an issue for either film.

The Touch (1971): 6/10 The Serpent's Egg (1977): 7/10

Extras 4/10

Rather disappointingly Criterion doesn’t pack a lot on here, each film only receiving one feature. The bigger surprise is that Criterion only ports one feature from the old MGM DVD for The Serpent’s Egg, and that’s the 16-minute featurette Away From Home, featuring interviews with actors David Carradine and Liv Ullmann, and author Marc Gervais. It’s a standard studio produced making-of featurette, summarizing the film’s production and release. Gervais talks a little about the influence of German Expressionism on the film and Ullmann recalls watching the film with Bergman recently and how the director has turned around on it since its production; he had disliked it initially. Again, it’s nothing mind-blowing or revelatory but it does offer a so-so overview of the film’s production and initial reception.

Missing here is the 5-minute featurette with Gervais talking about how he came around to reassessing the film, along with an audio commentary featuring Carradine. I won’t say either is really missed; the Gervais interview isn’t especially in-depth and Carradine’s commentary is a disappointment. Still, I can’t think of why Criterion wouldn’t include them outside of maybe some contractual deal with Arrow, who released an individual edition of the film, to allow Criterion to include the film in their set.

At any rate, The Touch at least comes with a significantly better supplement itself, the 55-minute documentary Ingmar Bergman, filmed by Stig Björkman during the making of The Touch. Though it features some behind-the-scenes footage and gathers interviews with others on set, like Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, and Elliott Gould, the centerpiece is an interview with Bergman himself that is edited in throughout. Here the filmmaker talks a bit about his process (intercut with footage of the director planning his current film), including collaborating with others, and what are the most important moments. It’s an interesting interview, though there’s a moment where he refers to Dreyer as an “amateur” in response to how the director was too serious, Bergman liking to keep things fun while making a film, and I’m admittedly not completely sure where he was going with that.

The 247-page booklet that comes with the set includes an essay on both films written by Karan Mahajan, who covers the production backgrounds of each film before getting into a defense for both (more so for The Touch), amusingly likening the convoluted plot of The Serpent's Egg to a Bond film.

Though the Bergman documentary is a good inclusion (and it can be found on the BFI edition for The Touch as well), it’s disappointing Criterion didn’t feel the need to explore Bergman’s two English-language films more, especially The Serpent’s Egg.

Closing

The presentations suffer from some mild compression but are otherwise fine, but the lack of features around Bergman’s two English-language films is beyond disappointing

Part of a multi-title set

BUY AT: Amazon.com Amazon.ca

 
 
Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
Featuring: Anita Björk, Inga Landre, Elliott Gould, Nine-Christine Jönsson, Josef Kostlinger, Ingrid Bergman, Ulla Jacobsson , Robert Atzorn, Bïörje Ahlstedt, Holger Löwenadler, Eva Henning, Liv Ullmann, Eva Dahlbeck, Maj-Britt Nilsson, Irma Urrila, Pernilla Allwin, Anna Lindhal, David Carradine, Christine Buchegger, Kari Sylwan, Ingrid Thulin, Lena Nyman, Hakan Hagegard, Gert Frobe, Stig Olin, Martin Benrath, Yvonne Lombard, Börje Ahlstedt, Ake Grönberg, Margaretha Krook, Mimi Nelson, Marianne Löfgren, Birgit Tengroth, Alf Kjellin, Stig Järrel, Harriet Andersson, Birger Malmsten, Bibi Andersson, Birgitta Valberg , Nils Poppe, Bengt Ekerot, Victor Sjöström, Hasse Ekman, Max von Sydow, Jarl Kulle , Jörgen Lindström, Berta Hall, Dagny Lind, Lars Passgård, Birgitta Pettersson, John Ekman, Ulf Palme, Nadja Palmstjerna-Weiss, Julia Dufvenius, Rita Russek, Halvar Björk, Georg Rydeberg, Sheila Reid, Håkan Jahnberg, Ewa Fröling, Margit Carlqvist, Annalisa Ericson, Elisabeth Eriksson, Gunnel Lindblom, Gunnar Björnstrand, Margit Carlquist, Gunnel Fred, Fritz Strassner, Lars Ekborg, Naemi Briese, Brigitta Valberg, Karin Kavli, Ingmar Bergman, Bertil Guve, Allan Bohlin, Mimmi Nelson, Lola Müthel, Jullan Kindahl, Arne Bang-Hansen, Anders Ek, Heinz Bennent, Erland Josephson, Gertrud Fridh, Jan Malmsjö, Walter Schmidinger, Karl-Arne Holmsten, Hjördis Petterson, Wenche Foss, Folke Sundquist, Erik Hell, Inga Gill, Ernst Eklund, Olof Winnerstrand, Hans Alfredson, Marianne Aminoff, Sture Lagerwall, Hans Quest, Annika Tretow, Allan Edwall, Bengt Eklund, Gudrun Brost, Naima Wifstrand, Sigge Fürst, Mona Malm, Ingvar Kjellson, Maud Hansson, Lasse Krantz, Mimi Pollak, Britta Billsten, Signe Wirff, Barbro Hiort af Ornäs, Björn Bjelvenstam, Gaby Stenberg, Birgitte Reimer, Edith Heerdegen, Anita Wall, Georg Funkquist, Inga Landgré, Henning Moritzen, Georg Løkkeberg, Ruth Olafs, James Whitmore, Aino Taube, Frank Sundström, Jan Molander, John Elfström, Ann-Marie Gyllenspetz, Ulf Johanson, Renée Björling, Kerstin Tidelius, Tovio Pawlo, Gunnel Broström, Glynn Turman, Karl-Heinz Pelser, Torsten Winge, Linn Ullmann, Georg Arlin, Håkan Westergren, Gunnar Sjöberg, Bertil Anderberg, Lena Olin, Dagmar Ebbesen, Sif Ruud, Axel Düberg, Vilgot Sjöman, Gaby Dohm, Åke Fridell, Erik Strandmark, Per Mattson, Heino Hallhuber, Gunnar Olsson, Gösta Prüzelius
Year: 1946-2003
Time: 4467 total min.
 
Series: The Criterion Collection
Licensors: Svensk Filmindustri  |  Folkets Hus och Parker  |  Buena Vista Home Entertainment  |  MGM Home Entertainment  |  20th Century Fox  |  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: November 20 2018
MSRP: $299.95
 
Blu-ray
30 Discs | BD-50
1.33:1 ratio
1.37:1 ratio
1.66:1 ratio
1.78:1 ratio
1.85:1 ratio
English 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
English 1.0 PCM Mono
Swedish 1.0 PCM Mono
German 1.0 PCM Mono
Swedish 2.0 PCM Stereo
Subtitles: English
Region A
 
 Video introduction to Smiles of a Summer Night by Ingmar Bergman   New video conversation between Bergman scholar Peter Cowie and writer Jörn Donner, executive producer of Fanny and Alexander, about Smiles of a Summer Night   Original theatrical trailer for Smiles of a Summer Night   Audio commentary for Wild Strawberries featuring film scholar Peter Cowie   Introduction to Wild Strawberries by director Ingmar Bergman   Ingmar Bergman on Life and Work, a ninety-minute documentary by filmmaker and author Jorn Donner   Behind-the-scenes footage for Wild Strawberries shot by Bergman    Introduction for Summer with Monika by director Ingmar Bergman   New interview with actress Harriet Andersson, conducted by film scholar Peter Cowie   New interview with film scholar Eric Schaefer about Kroger Babb and his distribution of Monika, the Story of a Bad Girl! as an exploitation film   Images from the Playground, a half-hour documentary by Stig Björkman featuring behind-the-scenes footage shot for Summer with Monika by Ingmar Bergman, archival audio interviews with Bergman, and new interviews with actresses Bibi Andersson and Harriet Andersson   Trailer for Summer with Monika   Introduction for A Lesson in Love by Ingmar Bergman   Video interview with Ingmar Bergman from 1986   Video interview with Scenes from a Marriage's stars Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson   Video interview with Bergman scholar Peter Cowie comparing the two versions of Scenes from a Marriage   Interviews with director Ingmar Bergman and a brief excerpt from a press conference for Shame, recorded in 1967 and ’68 for Swedish television   New interview with actor Liv Ullmann   An Introduction to Ingmar Bergman, a 1968 documentary made during Shame's production, featuring an extensive interview with Bergman   Daniel, a rarely seen documentary short by Bergman   Karin's Face, a rarely seen documentary short by Bergman   Introduction for Bergman's Trilogy by director Ingmar Bergman   Exploring Bergman's Trilogy: Video discussions with Ingmar Bergman biographer Peter Cowie   Interview from 2012 with actor Harriet Andersson   Original theatrical trailer for Through a Glass Darkly   Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie, a five-part documentary by Vilgot Sjöman made for Swedish television during the production of Winter Light   Original theatrical trailer for Winter Light   Poster gallery for the trilogy films   Original theatrical trailer for The Silence   Audio commentary for The Virgin Spring by Ingmar Bergman scholar Birgitta Steene   Video interviews from 2005 with actors Gunnel Lindblom and Birgitta Pettersson   Introduction for The Virgin Spring by filmmaker Ang Lee   An audio recording of a 1975 American Film Institute seminar by Ingmar Bergman   Introduction to The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman, recorded in 2003   Audio commentary for The Seventh Seal by Bergman expert Peter Cowie   Afterword for The Seventh Seal by Peter Cowie   Bergman Island (2006), an 83-minute documentary on Bergman by Marie Nyrer   Archival audio interview with Max von Sydow   A 1989 tribute to Bergman by filmmaker Woody Allen   Theatrical trailer for The Seventh Seal   Bergman 101, a selected video filmography tracing Bergman   Audio commentary for Sawdust and Tinsel by Bergman scholar Peter Cowie   Video introduction for Sawdust and Tinsel by Ingmar Bergman from 2003   Visual essay for The Magician by Peter Cowie   Brief 1967 video interview with director Ingmar Bergman about The Magician   Rare English-language audio interview with Ingmar Bergman conducted by filmmakers Olivier Assayas and Stig Björkman in 1990   Interview with director Ingmar Bergman recorded in 1974 for Swedish television   New interview with film scholar Peter Cowie about The Magic Flute   Tystnad! Tagning! Trollflöjten! (1975), a feature-length documentary produced for Swedish television about the making of The Magic Flute   Ingmar Bergman, a documentary by Stig Björkman shot on location during the making of The Touch in 1970   Away from Home, excerpts from a 2004 program on The Serpent's Egg, featuring interviews with actors David Carradine and Liv Ullmann, and film historian Marc Gervais   Visual essay on the film’s prologue by Ingmar Bergman scholar Peter Cowie   Interviews from 2013 with actor Liv Ullmann and filmmaker Paul Schrader   Excerpted archival interviews with Ingmar Bergman, Liv Ullmann, and actor Bibi Andersson   On-set footage, with audio commentary by Bergman historian Birgitta Steene   Liv & Ingmar, a 2012 feature documentary directed by Dheeraj Akolkar   Trailer for Persona   Illustrated audio interview with cinematographer Sven Nykvist, recorded in 1981   Introduction for Cries and Whispers by director Ingmar Bergman from 2001   2012 interview with actor Harriet Andersson, conducted by historian Peter Cowie   Behind-the-scenes footage from Cries and Whispers with commentary by Peter Cowie   Ingmar Bergman: Reflections on Life, Death, and Love with Erland Josephson (2000), a fifty-two-minute interview with Bergman and his longtime collaborator   On Solace, a video essay by filmmaker ::kogonada   Trailer for Cries and Whispers   A lavishly illustrated 248-page book, featuring essays on the films by critics, scholars, and authors including Peter Cowie, Alexander Chee, Molly Haskell, Karan Mahajan, Fernanda Solórzano, and many others; selections from Ingmar Bergman’s own writing and remarks on his work; and detailed guides to the feature films and supplements included in the set