Mixing awe and irreverence, “Trespassing Bergman” informatively and entertainingly explores the home, life, films and legacy of legendary Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman with the help of other world-cinema heavyweights. Calling on filmmakers including Michael Haneke, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, John Landis, Lars von Trier, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Claire Denis, Wes Craven, Takeshi Kitano Ang Lee and Zhang Yimou to discuss the impact that films such as “Summer With Monika,” “The Seventh Seal,” “Persona” and “Fanny and Alexander” had on their lives and careers, this cinephile’s delight will be catnip to global fests, broadcasters and distribs.
Jane Magnusson and Hynek Pallas’ docu combines previously unseen behind-the-scenes footage from the making of Bergman’s films, well-chosen clips and a chronology of his career with candid conversations with other filmmakers, some shot at Bergman’s remote Faro Island home and others at locations around the world. A playful tone is established early on as the interviewees arrive at Faro — some on foot, as if by stealth, others in fancy cars and some even by helicopter, to the accompaniment of a swelling, Philip Glass-like score.
To be in the master’s home inspires a range of emotions among the visitors. Inarritu exclaims, ”If cinema was a religion, this would be Mecca, the Vatican. This is the center of it all.” Denis feels faint. Tomas Alfredson mutters, “It’s like visiting the NOT fun house.” Meanwhile, von Trier, speaking from his own office in Denmark, offers saucy, tongue-in-cheek commentary not far removed from the sort that made him persona non grata in Cannes.
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Exchanging their shoes for slippers at the door, the Bergman estate guests explore the carefully preserved building, which, after Bergman’s death in 2007, was turned into a museum. Most settle into comfy chairs in the TV room, notable for its extensive, carefully alphabetized, handsomely shelved collection of VHS tapes, complete with personal notes by Bergman, an avid film buff. It’s a kick to see Haneke’s wife photograph her smiling husband as he holds a copy of “The Pianist” and notes that Bergman only gave it four stars.
“Trespassing Bergman” grew out of a six-part 2012 TV series titled “Bergman’s Video.” Each 45-minute episode of the smallscreen skein dealt with a central topic from Bergman’s films (for example, “Death,” “Fear,” “Silence”) and how that theme played out in the interviewed filmmakers’ work The feature docu, however, focuses entirely on Bergman’s oeuvre and how it affected the history of cinema as well as the renowned interviewees.
The documakers are both well-regarded writers and critics (Magnusson wrote the Swedish comedy “The Swimsuit Issue,” and Pallas authored two books about Swedish film), and they display an in-depth knowledge of their subject as well as a welcome sense of humor. The chief flaw in “Trespassing Bergman” is that the contributions of thesps such as Holly Hunter, Laura Dern and Robert De Niro do not add much to the discussion, especially in comparison with the reminscences and anecdotes of actors who worked with him, such as Harriet Andersson and Pernilla August. Isabella Rossellini’s story about “Autumn Sonata,” her mother Ingrid Bergman’s first and only collaboration with the director, is particularly touching.
Tech package is aces all around, especially the excellent archival materials and glistening black-and-white extracts from Bergman’s early films. The well-produced interviews with filmmakers not visiting Faro exude heaps of personality.