Searching for Ingmar Bergman: Insightful Doc Puts Gentle Lens on Influential Director

By Liam Lacey

Rating: B

German director Margarethe von Trotta (Marianne & Juliane, Hannah Arendt) offers this personal, contemplative examination of the legacy of the late Swedish filmmaker, a hugely influential director of the last half of the 20th century, though nowadays — on the 100th anniversary of his birth — largely out of fashion. (And he really ought not to be).

Von Trotta’s film does not dig particularly deeply but is a fond survey of cinema’s celebrated soul miner. Fellow filmmakers and collaborators Jean-Claude Carrière, Carlos Saura, Mia Hansen-Løve, son Daniel Bergman and Olivier Assayas (who is especially insightful) express their personal connection to his work and Bergman’s place in cinema history.

The director as father…

The director as father…

Many of the interview subjects address Bergman’s frustrating contradictions: The artist who understood children so deeply but was a neglectful father; the artist who created complex, liberated women characters while, in his own life, had a habit of impregnating and running.

As a leading feminist voice in post-War German cinema, Von Trotta’s devotion to Bergman, the archetypal self-absorbed male genius, seems unfashionably but refreshingly forgiving. She sees the flaws in the “gloomy Swede,” an artist beset by insecurity and neurosis, while paying tribute to his influence, compassion and psychological insight.

Searching for Ingmar Bergman. Directed by Margarethe von Trotta. With Olivier Assayas and Daniel Bergman. Opens December 7 at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox.