What would be the best way to celebrate Ingmar Bergman if not with a selection of short films inspired by his work? Prominent Swedish film-makers got together and told their Bergman stories under the name of Bergman Revisited. The short film selection premiered at the Göteborg Film Festival back in January 2018.

For a long time, Ingmar Bergman was equal to Swedish cinema. His artistry has been celebrated, discussed and theorised many times, especially in terms of European modernist cinema. However, 2018 is a special year: Bergman would have turned 100 this year, and therefore a worldwide celebration called Bergman100 has been launched. This means that various events are taking place all around the world right now to celebrate the mastermind behind films such The Seventh Seal, Persona, Silence, Fanny & Alexander. Besides several smaller and larger events, the Göteborg Film Festival, SVT and the Swedish Film Institute joined forces to produce the short film selection entitled Bergman Revisited. The six short films are Bergman’s Reliquary (Bergmans Reliquarium) directed by Tomas Alfredson, Vox lipoma (Fettknölen) by Jane Magnusson and Liv Strömquist, Scener ur natten by Pernilla August, Ariel by Linus Tunström, God Is Silent (Guds tystnad) by Lisa Aschan, and Infektionen by Patrik Eklund.

Bergman’s Reliquary is not only a perfect title but also the showcase of Sweden’s prominent actresses joined by singer Veronica Maggio. The short rushes through Ingmar Bergman’s work referring to motion pictures such as The Seventh Seal, Persona, Cries & Whispers, Fanny & Alexander and plays out as a music video for Veronica Maggio’s song 20 Questions. It’s as much as the celebration of Bergman as it is a celebration of women, which is no surprise knowing Bergman’s oeuvre. While the film probably means more to those who have seen Bergman’s films, it invites all of its viewers for a fifteen-minute-long audiovisual journey filled with joy, sorrow, fun, fear, life and death.

Vox lipoma (Fettknölen) is an edgy short inspired by both Ingmar Bergman, and the #metoo movement or, more specifically, the power of men. Jane Magnusson and Liv Strömquist approached the topic of Bergman to highlight the questionable decisions he made in his private life. By making a comedy supported by a great dose of criticism, they scrutinise Bergman’s sexuality, artistry and power. The film perfectly aligns with the question emerged with the #metoo movement: is it possible to separate the art from the artist? It won’t cause any surprise whether the short would be condemned as too harsh a statement or Bergman or being too provocative, but Magnusson and Strömquist tell only what everyone else already knew about the Swedish film-maker. Despite all this, Bergman’s talent has not been ignored, it is celebrated, but the time has arrived to look at the bigger picture as well.

Scener ur natten, Infektionen and God Is Silent are the reminder that every relationship, marriage has ups and downs and it requires a lot of work. The former two shorts help us refresh our memory of Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, the latter is a contemporary version of the film Silence. Pernilla August’s short tells the story of an artist whose wife and mistress need to calmly come to an agreement. It is a rather mediocre piece about the power of art as well as the sacrifices and forgiveness that come with it, and it won’t make you care. In contrast with Scener ur natten, Infektionen is more of a comedy about those tiny, annoying details that turn the best relationships ever into nightmares. Patrik Eklund’s short will make you grin and ponder on life, but it still does not manage to break out of mediocrity. The acting and comedic elements of the situations are worthwhile mentioning but it still comes across as a film you’ve seen many times before. God Is Silent rhymes with Bergman’s Silence, and it is an intense play between two women. Feelings such as jealousy, discontent and wildness drive the plot towards a content and peaceful end. The plot develops by intensifying the feelings gradually, but sometimes it lacks deepness. Even the only male character who has a key role in the story, his presence weakens the effect of the crucial moments. Therefore, the short feels rather a pale reflection of the original motion picture.

Despite the unbalanced quality of the beforementioned shorts, the weakest was definitely the one entitled Ariel. This light family drama aims at exploring the human soul and the paths of freedom, but instead it takes its audience for a roller-coaster ride – and not a pleasant one. The story of a little girl born with wings and her parents barely offers any excitement. The main source of the dramatic tension would be the parents’ different approach to their daughter’s otherness, but neither the characters and their dialogues nor the script manages to accumulate that.

Barbara Majsa

Barbara is a journalist, editor and film critic. She usually does interviews with film-makers, artists, designers, and writes about cinema, design and books.