Summer Under the Stars: Hour of the Wolf (1968)

Muse and Artist

Early on in Ingmar Bergman’s 1968 film Hour of the Wolf, painter Johan Borg (Max von Sydow) urges his pregnant wife, Alma (Liv Ullmann), to pose for him so that he can sketch her. He instructs her on how she should sit, how to arrange the robe she’s wearing, what to do with her hair. “If I patiently drew you, day after day…” he says as the scene fades to black. The artist and his muse — but their roles undergo something like a reversal once Johan vanishes and Alma is left to try to make sense of what happened, to share her perspective on the man with whom she lived for seven years. Perhaps she didn’t know him as well as she thought; perhaps, in a strange sense, she knew him too well.

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Two Films: Wild Strawberries (1957) and 8½ (1963)

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Federico Fellini, speaking to Irving R. Levine in a 1965 interview for NBC News, admitted that he rarely went to the movies. “I do my work with such passion that I don’t know how to be just a spectator,” he explained. Asked about contemporary directors whom he admired, he could only come up with three names. One was Akira Kurosawa; another was Alfred Hitchcock; the first was Ingmar Bergman. “I’ve only seen two of his films, Wild Strawberries and The Magician, but they were enough to make me love him like a brother.” The following year, in an interview with the French magazine Positif, he reiterated his high regard for Bergman, whom he described as “a really gifted man, a true author, a real showman.” He also noted that 1958’s The Magician “upset me, in a way, because it is exactly the same as a story I wrote four or five years ago and meant to film — in a different atmosphere, of course. It’s Nordic and I’m Mediterranean, Latin, but the subject is exactly the same.” Although his variation on The Magician never made it to the screen, one of Fellini’s most famous films does share a number of similarities with the other Bergman movie he had seen.

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A Mother and a Daughter: Autumn Sonata (1978)

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“A mother and a daughter — what a terrible combination of feelings and confusion and destruction. Everything is possible and is done in the name of love and solicitude. The mother’s injuries are handed down to the daughter. The mother’s failures are paid for by the daughter. The mother’s unhappiness will be the daughter’s unhappiness. It’s as if the umbilical cord had never been cut.”

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Blind Spot Series: Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)

Smiles of a Summer Night

To the outside world, Fredrik Egerman (Gunnar Björnstrand) seems an enviable man. A well-to-do lawyer in early twentieth century Sweden, he’s been married to a much younger woman, Anne (Ulla Jacobsson), for the past two years. But the Egermans have a secret: They have yet to consummate their marriage. Fredrik wants to give the nineteen-year-old Anne time to mature, time to grow comfortable and cease fearing him, yet he can’t help feeling frustrated with this state of affairs, especially as he suspects that she only sees him as a father figure. His son from his first marriage, Henrik (Björn Bjelfvenstam), is about the same age as Anne, which only makes Fredrik more ill at ease.

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