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Ingmar Bergman: Four Masterworks


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Frequently Bought Together

Ingmar Bergman: Four Masterworks + Cries and Whispers (The Criterion Collection) + Ingmar Bergman Trilogy (Through a Glass Darkly / Winter Light / The Silence) (Criterion Collection)
Price For All Three: CDN$ 183.90

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Product Details

  • Actors: Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Victor Sjöström, Bibi Andersson, Birgitta Valberg
  • Directors: Ingmar Bergman
  • Writers: Ingmar Bergman, Ulla Isaksson
  • Producers: Ingmar Bergman, Allan Ekelund
  • Format: Box set, Black & White, DVD-Video, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: Swedish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: Dec 4 2007
  • Run Time: 384 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000WC39FY
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #27,903 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Emehjay on Oct. 10 2007
Format: DVD
Definitely want to add this set to my collection but hey, Amazon.ca, why $91 (as of October 10, 2007) when Amazon.com is selling for $75??? As we all know, the Canadian $ has been par or better for several weeks now. Please address this isssue not only for this item but your entire inventory.
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By K. Gordon TOP 50 REVIEWER on April 18 2012
Format: DVD
While these are not, for the most part my favorite Bergman films (my votes go to the later films like 'Cries and Whispers', 'Persona' ,'Fanny and Alexander', 'Scenes from a Marriage', etc.)
there's no questioning that these were among his most important and influential films, bringing a kind of somber and complex use of symbolism to a comparatively mass audience and
wrestling with the most basic and fundamental philosophical questions in a way few films of any popularity had done; Is there a God? Why are we here? Why is there good and evil?
Is there free will, or are we doomed to a predetermined fate? Is there room for hope?

If all this sounds like heavy going, it can be at times, but it also will stretch your brain in a way few works of art do. They also have some of the most stunning cinematography of all time.

And besides, "Smiles of a Summer Night" is a light romp of a comedy, off-setting the thick and thoughtful gloom of 'The Seventh Seal', 'Wild Strawberries' and 'The Virgin Spring'.

All these transfers are excellent, although the newer Criterion blu-ray of "The Seventh Seal" is a step up even from these first rate transfers. As noted in the other review, you can
currently (4/2012) get this for almost 50% less on Amazon.US

My specific thoughts on the films;

The Virgin Spring (1959)
My favorite of the pre 1960 Bergman films, this has (once again) amazing photography by Sven Nykvest. It also boasts one of Max Von Sydow's most powerful performances - which
is saying a lot.

Set in a medieval world like 'The Seventh Seal', but here the questions of guilt, god, right and wrong are simpler and less symbolic, and to me ring truer and more emotional.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 17 reviews
111 of 117 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful restoration of four key works Feb. 26 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a technically striking and visually pleasing restoration of four of Bergman's key works. The extras on the disks are sparse, as might be expected. My personal choice was to skip the learned commentary for now, as I wanted to re-experience the three dramas (after about four decades) from my own recollections, though I did enjoy the technical comparisons illustrating the depth and detail of the restoration work. The quality of these disks highlights Bergman's mastery of monochrome cinema, and heightened both my enjoyment and understanding of the works. The favorite of my youth, "The Seventh Seal," is still amazing, though the symbolism is somewhat lessened by the passage of [my] years and, sadly, the broad and often comedic imitation of Bergman's personification of death in others' work. Several of the iconic scenes are even more powerful thanks to the quality of the print. My current favorite is "Virgin Spring," the story of the tragic consequences proceeding from a young girl's innocence and budding romantic awareness leading to rape, murder and brutal revenge. Bergman's skill left me with the heartbreaking picture not only of selfish brutality and young life lost but of the death of beauty itself. "Wild Strawberries" is the work that rose the most in my estimation. It is the fantasy-laced story of an elderly and accomplished man forced to confront the emotional poverty of his youth more directly and deeply than Mr. Scrooge or Professor Unrath. A change of pace is the "Smiles of a Summer Night," an amusing comedy of the absurd which, taken with the other works, shows how Bergman's eye for beautiful young women surely imprinted the image of Swedish womanhood in the west of the last half-century. Excellent sound quality, nicely subtitled in English, and worth every penny, even (perhaps especially) if you already have one or two of the works in poorer prints.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Bergman's four earlier great works ~ Aug. 10 2012
By Christopher Barrett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
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.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
You must get this collection if you've ever seen Bergman June 23 2009
By Jane Austen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Four of Ingmar Bergman's greatest films should be on everyone's "Life List," and they are all here in this Criterion Collection, "Four Masterworks." Each film is on its own disc accompanied by many special features, including an introduction by Bergman to "Smiles of a Summer Night;" interviews with some of his favorite actors; and commentary by film historian Peter Cowie. Video about film restoration too, for the techies in the art world. Picture, audio and subtitles are all crisp - no disappointment in quality that you might find in cheap movie reproductions. Ingmar Bergman was a genius of cinema, and these films are worth passing on to many generations.
32 of 43 people found the following review helpful
The artist and the technician March 3 2008
By Ira S. Moss - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
After viewing these 4 films once again, I realize how important some twentieth century films are to our understanding of ourselves, our religons, the way we love one another, and the way we deal with death.
The artistry is within every frame.
There is one interview documentry with Bergman in 1998 with one of his assocites, it is clear that as Bergman got older and older, he wanted to dis-associate himself from these early acheivements. Why? He states that although he knew he was master of the medium (and theater as well)that his personal life, was just a series of bitter disappointments ending with the death of his last wife, Ingrid I beleive. So, he assumed himself to be just an anonymous technician, or at least that's what he wished.
The only compliant I have is that the subtitles are inside of the visual image instead of being letter boxed and the subtitles are sloppily inserted. Not up to Criterion criteria.
One new observation is that the ensamble cast that Bergman uses throughout most of these films are one of the reasons these movies are the classics that they are.
Lastly, Bergman films aren't made to be watched once and discarded, they are made to be re-inestigated year-in and year-out.
Skoal!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Four films that changed cinema history April 14 2012
By K. Gordon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
While these are not, for the most part my favorite Bergman films (my votes go to the later films like 'Cries and Whispers', 'Persona' ,'Fanny and Alexander', 'Scenes from a Marriage', etc.)
there's no questioning that these were among his most important and influential films, bringing a kind of somber and complex use of symbolism to a comparatively mass audience and
wrestling with the most basic and fundamental philosophical questions in a way few films of any popularity had done; Is there a God? Why are we here? Why is there good and evil?
Is there free will, or are we doomed to a predetermined fate? Is there room for hope?

If all this sounds like heavy going, it can be at times, but it also will stretch your brain in a way few works of art do. They also have some of the most stunning cinematography of all time.

And besides, "Smiles of a Summer Night" is a light romp of a comedy, off-setting the thick and thoughtful gloom of 'The Seventh Seal', 'Wild Strawberries' and 'The Virgin Spring'.

All these transfers are excellent, although the newer Criterion blu-ray of "The Seventh Seal" is a step up even from these first rate transfers. And the price for the set (as of 4/2012) is
quite good for 4 Criterion transfers.

My specific thoughts on the films;

The Virgin Spring (1959)
My favorite of the pre 1960 Bergman films, this has (once again) amazing photography by Sven Nykvest. It also boasts one of Max Von Sydow's most powerful performances - which
is saying a lot.

Set in a medieval world like 'The Seventh Seal', but here the questions of guilt, god, right and wrong are simpler and less symbolic, and to me ring truer and more emotional. Not that
the film doesn't have it's fair share of symbolism. This is still Bergman. But those symbolic gestures feel more a part of a larger story, instead of the point.

Some of the supporting performances aren't quite up to Von Sydow's and a couple of key moments felt a bit contrived, but this is a very tense, intense, disturbing and emotional
look at one family from another time dealing with issues that are still all too familiar. Indeed there's almost a feeling of horror film about it at moments, and it is, amazingly,
sighted as the uncredited basis for Wes Craven's 'The Last House on the Left'!

The Seventh Seal (1957)
I feel like a fool for not loving this classic examination of the existence (or lack thereof) of both God and the meaning of life more. I appreciate it, with it's stark, lovely photography,
attention to detail, marvelous performances, and sly dark sense of humor that balances the portentousness of the subject matter, and makes the film much easier to watch than my
high school film-class memories of it.

On the other hand, while I appreciate the film's importance in cinema history, and the bravery with which it tackles the biggest of issues in a head-on, intellectual way, I find it just
that - a very intellectual experience, devoid of much in the way of emotion. I also find some of the writing preachy and on the nose.

Yet, in the end, I admire what it accomplished in its time, and how well it holds up 55 years later. And seeing as I went from not liking it at all, to liking it quite a bit on my 2nd
viewing, I'm open to what a third seeing might bring.

Wild Strawberries (1957)

An old doctor (a magnificent performance by Victor Sjostrom) takes a car trip to receive an award for 50 years in medicine, accompanied by his daughter in law, and some
teenage hitchhikers they pick up. He is tormented by highly symbolic dreams (beautifully done), and by the realization he has kept himself at an emotional distance from
others and the world, and now his life is racing towards it's end.

Quite moving in spots, but somehow never ended up with as much power as I expected.

Two critics' notes made sense to me. One said that, for as great and transparent as Sjostrom's performance is, he is so sweet and likable a presence it's hard to reconcile
him with a man his daughter in law openly admits she doesn't like because of his cold nature. The other point - which could also be applied to 'The Seventh Seal' is that
the film seems less special today because the stylistic barriers it broke and the doors it opened (an almost totally subjective film, dream sequences of depth and meaning, etc)
have since become a familiar part of film grammar. But at the time, this was something new and brave. Another to re-see.

Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)

A funny bedroom farce - the last thing one would think of the early Bergman doing. A bunch of upper class folk spend a weekend together at a country
house. Lots of bed hopping, betrayal, male macho posturing, and female manipulation ensues. Never for a second dull, but for me never quite rose to the
heights of Bergman's best works either.

Personally I found the Sondheim musical adaptation of this - 'A Little Night Music' - more moving and human. There's something a bit distanced and
controlling about Bergman's approach which limits our chance to empathize with these characters. I smiled a lot, but was left wanting something deeper.

Sort of a fun one-night-stand of a film.


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