And my four favorite Bergman films overall. I would say that these films, along with the Trilogy (The Ingmar Bergman Trilogy (Through a Glass Darkly / Winter Light / The Silence) (The Criterion Collection)) are the crowning achievements of this brilliant director's career.
Be aware though, that these are basically the original Criterion DVD releases, just put into one package. They have the same content, just a different outward look. So if you already own these films on Criterion DVD, then you have this collection already, just individually.
Criterion has restored these films beautifully. It is amazing that they can use the filters and DNR so well to remove grain and static while maintaining the crystal clear quality of the original filming. These earlier films have different themes and settings, though they share s style that many of Bergman's earlier films had (perhaps because he switched to a new cinematographer before Through a Glass Darkly). I actually prefer the style of the imagery of these earlier Bergman films. The use of contrast is of particular importance. These are visual masterpieces of black and white film, and I think Bergman may visually be the greatest director to ever work with black and white film (Nods to Ozu, Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Ford, and Welles). These films are a delight to view.
Smiles of a Summer Night is among the more lighthearted of Bergman's films. I particularly love the elderly matriarch, and the dinner scene is laugh out loud hilarious. The film does feature a few Bergman regulars, and they are well matched to their roles. A lot of the film centers around the characters having affairs with one another. It does remind me a bit of Renoir's Rules of the Game. There is a lot of misunderstanding throughout. This lighthearted film does have some darker moments, but it does end on a happy note.
What can I say about The Seventh Seal? It gave us the modern view of Death as a white faced figure in a black robe. It contains two of the most iconic images in film ever: the chess match with Death and the characters all dancing hand in hand across the ridge in the distance near the end (a scene that almost didn't occur, Bergman had the crew don the costumes and put this scene together at the last minute without the actors even present). This middle ages set film does delve into faith, a theme Bergman would visit again in many of his films. This is a film filled with symbolism, meaning, and iconic imagery. The acting is wonderful, the directing masterful. Arguably one of Bergman's best, and arguably one of the most important films of all time.
Wild Strawberries is the film I consider Bergman's best. This is a complex and emotional story of a doctor in his old age coming to grips with his circumstances, something similar would happen to Bergman in his later years (as admitted in interviews in the 80s and 90s). The themes center around the approach of death and human existence (so you might call it an existential film). There are also other minor themes, but we really come back to the doctor reevaluating his life in his waning years. It is a sad, touching, and emotional film. There is closure in the end, but it is difficult and it involves a bit of letting go of the past. We also see some of the youth and the doctor almost sees himself in his youth and becomes remorseful about opportunities not taken. Features many Bergman regulars, and Victor Sjöström (Professor Isak Borg) in his final film role.
The Virgin Spring was Bergman's first Oscar winning film (followed the very next year by Through a Glass Darkly). In this adaptation of an old Swedish ballad, we see a father's reaction to the rape and murder of his daughter. This was the first and arguably most controversial film Bergman directed (later there would be others), mainly due to the rape scene. This film delves into the themes of innocence, violence, and evil. It is horrific, yet riveting. A great film, though one that I feel is more difficult to view many times. That may be the reason Wild Strawberries and Seventh Seal are often considered better, or more important, by many critics.
My recommendation is to purchase this set if you are a Bergman fan and do not already own the Criterion releases of these films. They are among the best films ever created. Enjoy.