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Flirting with “The Loyal Wife”: Bergman’s Theatrical Affair with Nora

Ingmar Bergman is so recognisable as perhaps one of the greatest auteur filmmakers of the twentieth century that his even more prolific career in the theatre is often considered to be of secondary importance. However, Bergman once claimed that “between my job at the theatre and my job in the film studio it has always been a very short step indeed.”1 Leif Zern, one of Bergman’s most prominent critics, once observed that “no other film director after the breakthrough of the sound film has been so influenced by the theatre.”2 Bergman’s work in the two media remained intertwined until 2003 when he directed both his last film, Saraband and his final theatrical production, Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts. Thus, Bergman, the filmmaker cannot, and should not, be considered in isolation from Bergman the theatremaker.

At the peak of his career, Bergman followed a demanding schedule that would come define his creative output—directing for the stage during the fall through the spring and for film during the summer. Once when asked about the demands of juggling his two passions, Bergman quipped: “The theatre is like a loyal wife, film is a great adventure, the costly and demanding mistress…you worship both, each in its own way.”3 By the time he reached age 40 in 1968, Bergman had been creating at a blistering pace, having already directed 24 of his eventual 37 feature films and well over 100 theatrical productions. While film allowed Bergman to exercise his independence, the theatre required him to function as a collaborator. In Scandinavian playwrights August Strindberg and Henrik Ibsen, the Swedish Bergman found kindred spirits to whose work he often returned. Over time, however, Bergman’s iconoclastic nature began to affect his theatrical endeavours.

One of the most notable examples of this was in 1981 when he conceived of “The Bergman Project,” as it would be come to be known, while in exile in Germany.4 The Project was first designed to be a simultaneous parallel performance of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, August Strindberg’s Miss Julie, and a staging of Bergman’s own film Scenes from a Marriage in repertory. Originally intended to be his “farewell to Munich,” Bergman conceived of a production of unprecedented size and scope that would also serve to reconnect him to his Scandinavian roots.5

Initially, Bergman denied an underlying reason behind his selection of these three plays: “I haven’t intended to use this project to make any specific statements or draw any conclusions.”6 This is a common line from Bergman, who often claimed that in his theatrical career: “I have staged what I’ve felt like doing or what I’ve been asked to do or what I’ve felt compelled to do. I have never pursued a particular program policy.”7 However, when later pressed, Bergman clarified that his Project specifically sought to strengthen the thematic and situational links between the three plays by honing the focus of each to the “two isolated human beings” central to each story—Nora and Torvald, Julie and Jean, and Marianne and Johan.8 To accomplish this, Bergman was required to subject each of the scripts to some degree of revision. In an interview about the process of adapting the plays for his Project, Bergman claimed: “Today, I think you ought never to cut Strindberg—but you should always cut Ibsen.”9 Echoing the reverence he felt for Strindberg in his childhood, Bergman’s preference for the work of his fellow Swede is clear in both practice and theory.10 Thus, it was A Doll’s House—the oldest of the three plays––which received the most radical treatment in order to become Nora.11

This essay will give careful consideration to the interplay between Bergman’s treatment of A Doll’s House, a later revision of the play—Ett Dockhem, and the echoes of his own cinematic works, which specifically contributed to Bergman’s deconstruction of Ibsen’s masterwork in the pursuit of creating of Nora.

. . .

By the time The Bergman Project premiered on April 29, 1981, after four months of gruelling rehearsal, the scope of the director’s vision had changed. When the original three show set-up proved impossible for practical reasons, the productions were split up and prepared for presentation in three Munich theatres. But, after being dissatisfied with architectural layout of the third venue—the Cuvilliés Theatre—Bergman settled for having the three plays performed at two different theatres on one street. At the Residenz, the company’s main theatre, Bergman staged a double bill of his new versions of Ibsen and Strindberg’s works. The nearly four-and-a-half-hour production featured his heavily edited and largely reimagined A Doll’s House (here titled Nora) followed after an intermission by his expanded adaptation of Miss Julie (shortened to Julie).

In order to bridge the gap between the work of Ibsen, Strindberg, and his own, Bergman was required to assume the role of adaptor as well as director. Ultimately, Bergman cut nearly one-third of Ibsen’s original text. The result served to achieve Bergman’s desire to hone in on the crumbling marriage of Torvald and Nora Helmer but did so at the expense of exciting many of the linking points of Ibsen’s realistic plot.

Instead of the carefully plotted three-act structure of A Doll’s House, Bergman’s play features a sequence of fifteen short scenes with no intermission. To achieve this visually, Bergman divided the Helmer home three minimally suggested domestic settings—the parlour, the dining room, and the bedroom—instead of observing the unity of place found in Ibsen’s play. This linear progression through the home serves as a visual suggestion of the play’s unending movement from public to private, external to internal.12

This effect was amplified by the two unique scenographic designs created by Bergman and his scenic designer Gunilla Palmstierna-Weiss. Both in 1981 and 1989, the duo sought to create a mise en scène which contrasted with the typical realistic settings implied by Ibsen’s text.

At both the Residenztheatre in Munich and later at Dramaten in Stockholm, Bergman staged the play in a conventional proscenium setup. In 1981, Nora was confined to one half of the Residenztheatre’s famed turntable, in order to accommodate the scenic design for Julie. A minimalist approach was applied, in which the major scenic element was a quadrilateral platform which was dotted with furniture suggesting the Helmers’ living room. Within this setup, the actors remained onstage the entire performance, with any exits indicated by the character simply leaving the platform and returning to assigned seating behind the main playing space. The entire set was surrounded by “extremely high walls topped by small barred windows,” deliberately designed to evoke an environment of imprisonment.13 Each set change was marked with a pause in the action, allowing for the minimal settings to be changed out in dreamlike transitions.

The scenography of Bergman’s 1989 production built upon many of the ideas of the earlier presentation. Most notably, the scenic design was once again “dominated by a raised island like platform.”14 This time, however, the actors’ seating areas flanked the main playing space to the left and right. Three chairs were placed on each side, now dividing the guests (Dr. Rank, Mrs. Linde, and Krogstad) from the Helmer family (Torvald, an empty chair for Nora, and Emmy’s chair indicated by the presence of her doll). The area behind the platform featured enlarged black-and-white photographs of rooms decorated in art nouveau style.15 In the brief pauses for set changes during the production, the pictures were switched to suggest the three different domestic settings. This decidedly anti-realistic presentation of the Helmers’ home was further suggested by large walls made of dark wood which enclosed the set. In contrast to the earlier production which emphasized entrapment, Palmstierna-Weiss and Bergman sought to replicate the aesthetics of a courtroom in this scenic design.

The breadth of his excisions also required Bergman to pare down the cast to five characters—completely removing the Helmers’ household staff as well as their three children. The remaining characters—Torvald, Krogstad, Mrs Linde, and Dr Rank—remained visibly present onstage behind Nora, seated in chairs placed along the back wall of the stage when they were not involved in the dramatic action. For Bergman, all of these deletions were acceptable, as they continued to keep the conflict focused on the two figures of Nora and Torvald for the show’s unimpeded 90-minute running time.

To this end, reviews have noted that Nora has a “seamless continuity and flows, quite surreally, like a dream.”16 Bergman biographers Frederick and Lise-Lone Marker comment that Bergman’s experimentation with A Doll’s House “became virtually a dream play,” calling to mind Strindberg’s work of the same name.17 Bergman’s production strategies draw parallels to the preface to A Dream Play:

In this dream play, the author has…attempted to imitate the inconsequent yet transparently logical shape of a dream. Everything can happen, everything is possible and probable. Time and place do not exist; on an insignificant basis of reality, the imagination spins, weaving new patterns; a mixture of memories, experiences, free fancies, incongruities and improvisations. The characters split, double, multiply, evaporate, condense, disperse, assemble. But one consciousness rules over them all, that of the dreamer; for him, there are no secrets, no scruples, no laws. He neither acquits nor condemns, but merely relates the story; and, just as a dream is more often painful than happy, so an undertone of melancholy and of pity for all mortal beings accompanies this flickering tale.18

Ibsen scholar Joan Templeton saw Bergman’s tamperings as a means to “turn Ibsen into his avowed spiritual father Strindberg.”19 This claim is not wholly inappropriate, as others saw Bergman’s adaptation as an “energetic pursuit of the Strindbergian chamber play.”20 For Strindberg, the chamber play was “intimate in form, [featured] a restricted subject, treated in depth, with few characters, large points of view, no superfluous minor characters, [and] no long-drawn-out whole evenings”—all characteristics found in Nora.21

While Templeton’s comment was meant to be dismissive, its central idea is perhaps crucial to best understanding Nora—that is as a combination of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Strindberg’s A Dream Play.

. . .

Bergman believed cutting Ibsen’s play was necessary: “It’s always been said that Ibsen was such a marvellous architect of the drama…but in A Doll’s House he still has immense difficulties with the building, the construction of the drama.”22 Instead of Ibsen’s carefully structured three-act play, Bergman’s script features an episodic sequence of fifteen scenes with no intermission.23 Bergman’s translators, the Markers, describe the director’s process as a “dismantling of the naturalistic superstructure of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.”  24

Bergman believed that through his reductivist approach, “you make it easier for [Ibsen], you make it easier for the actors, and you make it easier for the audience to grasp what he means.”25 By excising many of the linking points of Ibsen’s realistic plot, Bergman argued the story of the Helmers’ reckoning could be told without “get[ting] lost in all those details.”26 He saw the characters “caught in private hells of their own devising, trapped in relationships that are defined and deformed by a litany of recurrent rituals.”27 By winnowing each scene to its essential action and character interactions, Bergman has unexpectedly unlocked the biggest, but heretofore unacknowledged, the strength of his adaptation. Through “dismantling the naturalistic superstructure,” Bergman actually revealed the more complex chiastic plot substructure supporting Ibsen’s work.

Chiastic structure draws its name from the rhetorical device of chiasmus, where two clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures. Chiastic structure is a form of ring composition, an ancient literary technique which has been largely recognized in the work of Homer, the Bible, and other non-Western religious texts.28 Contemporary audiences are most acquainted with ring composition through Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey”—stories which return to their origin point, thus completing a ring or circle. For this reason, ring compositions emphasize parallelism and repetition in the narrative. However, chiastic structure is unique among ring compositions in its use of inverted parallelism.

In chiastic narrative, the writer is concerned with crafting a story “that goes up to a central point, makes a turn, then comes down step by step on the other side.”29 The major movement of chiastic narrative is found through the second half of the story reversing the actions of the first half after the turning point. This form was explored in-depth by Strindberg in many of his later plays, especially To Damascus. Strindberg explains this play’s structure almost identically to the chiasmus:

The art lies in the composition, which symbolizes the repetition that Kierkegaard speaks of. The action unrolls forward as it leads up to the asylum; there it hits the ‘point’ and then moves backwards, kicking against the pricks, through the pilgrimage, the relearning, the ruminations, and then it starts anew in the same place at which the game ends and where it began.30

In a chart below, I have provided a chiastic analysis of Nora, which can be referenced against the earlier analysis of the plot of A Doll’s House. In adapting, Bergman unknowingly did a large amount of the work by dividing Ibsen’s play into fifteen scenes. According to chiastic structure, the first scene should then correspond inversely with the fifteenth, the second with the fourteenth, the third with the thirteenth, and so on. The eighth scene would then serve as the turning point. With the chiastic structure exposed, Bergman seems to be more right than he realized when he said, “Just take everything away and then you find out how fantastic the shape of this play really is.”31 This formalist approach deepens Templeton’s assertion that Bergman worked to emulate Strindberg.

Locating this structure in Bergman’s Nora, combined with the pauses for set changes, shows how Murray’s tripartite points are still visible if altered. The point of attack remains tied to Nora’s confession of her crime to Christine; the crisis, climax, and conclusion all remain focused on the Helmers. The major structural difference shown by this mode concerns the play’s turning point, which is now found in Rank’s willing revelation of his love for Nora. This helps address some of the constant criticism which has historically dogged Ibsen’s play. Instead of hinging upon the melodramatic convention of Krogstad’s letter, Rank’s admission of love works has a far more potent pivot point in moving the play from secrecy to truth. Only two of the cuts made by Bergman disrupt this flow, as indicated by the bracketed steps: The first and last pediments of the play have been cut—the opening and closing of the door.

Bergman’s script also cuts Nora’s entrance alongside the porter and a discussion with the maid Helene. The script starts with Nora calling, “Come here, Torvald, and I’ll show you all the things I’ve bought.”32 However, in performance, Bergman supplemented the missing material by creating an opening tableau to help flesh out his concept for each production. For the 1981 Munich production, Nora was:

…[A]lready seated, utterly immobile, in the midst of a wilderness of dolls, and other suggestive relics of childhood. Leaning back against the pillows of the plush sofa, she stared out into empty space—virtually the picture of a human doll waiting to be taken up and played with. The very distant and faintly audible sound of an old-fashioned music-box tune [Robert Schumann’s Träumerei from Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood)] added to the strongly oneiric mood of nostalgia and suppressed melancholy that was created by this silent image of her motionless, oddly dejected figure.33

Eight years later in Stockholm, Bergman’s approach to this opening sequence was radically different. The prologue he created for Ett Dockhem had to reflect the production’s major addition—the presence of the Helmer’s daughter, Hilde. As the curtain parted:

Nora was sitting on the sofa reading the end of a fairy tale to her almost identically-dressed daughter: ‘…but a prince and his bride brought with them as much silver as they could carry. And they moved to the castle east of the sun and west of the moon.’ The reading was accompanied by sweet, romantic piano music, ‘The Maiden’s Prayer,’ as from a music box. Having received a goodnight kiss from her mother, Hilde left for bed. Nora lay down on the sofa, whistling the tune that had just been heard, put one arm in the air, then let it fall to the floor as her whistling petered out.34

The characterisation of Nora is curiously divergent in these opening moments, especially considering Bergman used the same text for the rest of the piece. However, changes like these indicate that Bergman was willing to rework the internal structure of Ibsen’s characters as radically as the internal structure of the play itself.

Ibsen scholar John Northam argues that fundamental to the structure of A Doll’s House is “Ibsen’s construction of situations for the characters surrounding Nora which in one way or another illustrate her predicament.”35 Bergman seemed to take this idea literally by actually surrounding Nora with the four other central characters in his productions. In this way, “Nora’s desperate struggle is watched all the time…by the other characters, by those four, impassive figures seated around the central platform.”36 The director had first attempted this metatheatrical device in an earlier production of A Dream Play, but in his production of Nora, he found a deeper intertextual justification for the choice.

On one level, the characters’ ability to freely flow in and out of the Helmers’ home without realistic entrances heightened the entrapment of Nora, who was not allowed to leave the small playing area centre stage. When the actors exited the Helmers’ home, they remained present as actor-spectators on Bergman’s stage itself. Through Bergman’s staging, Ibsen’s text became “a magical threshold made visible, and whose attention and presence seems to become the very subject of the mise-en-scène.”37 However, Bergman also employed the device to suggest that these other characters were trapped in their own “private hell” too. The imposing back wall of the enclosed set and absence of offstage space rendered the actors just as helplessly trapped as Nora. By denying both the actors and characters of any agency, the moment of Nora’s exit was meant to be read as truly radical.38

For all of the irreverent choices Bergman the adaptor made, Bergman the director failed in staging an ending on par with the impact of Ibsen’s original. In Munich, Bergman placed only Nora and Torvald onstage in hopes of focusing on the damage done to the marital relationship. In his estimation, “the consequences of Nora’s choice were meant for Torvald and Torvald alone.”39 But, when Nora finally made her exit at the end of the otherwise riveting production, it was through a small, hidden closet door at the back of the stage which popped open after her last line. Countering the feeling of Nora being a “doll waiting to be taken up and played with” of the opening tableau, here the doll was provided with an unexpectedly easy escape by an unseen hand.

On the whole, “The Bergman Project” was considered to be ambitious, but ultimately unsuccessful. For all of his success in exposing the inner workings of Ibsen’s script, Bergman’s mastery seemed to falter performance. In his review for the prominent German newspaper Die Zeit, Helmut Schöd quipped: “Bergman’s trilogy was nothing sensational (rather somewhat of a disappointment)…What the Munich press has called a ‘theatre event’ does not even have the quality of an emergency exit.”40 Some reviewers took umbrage with Bergman’s view of the character of Nora. In Nora, the main character’s arc was cut far too drastically, resulting in a thoughtless and selfish final act: “The whole character’s hollowness shines through…She has committed a really stupid thing. She punishes [her husband’s] loving care by leaving him. Her morals are as thoughtless in the end as in earlier scenes.”41  Other critics blamed the production’s bloated length for its failure. Largely though, the mammoth production was simply seen by the Germans as self-indulgent: “There really is no plausible ground for staging Bergman’s spectacle.”42 Schöd’s verdict was even more brutal: “It is clear that [Bergman] has nothing more to say onstage in Munich.”43

The Stockholm production of Ett Dockhem—set apart from the Munich production primarily by Hilde’s presence—worked to strengthen the impact of Nora’s decision on the Helmers’ familial relationship. The consequences could no longer solely be for Torvald. As the show concluded, Hilde appeared on the stage, woken up by the shouting of the parents. In contrast to the bedtime story of the show’s prologue, Hilde (and the audience) observed the decidedly non-fairy tale ending of her parents’ marriage. Moments later, Nora marched offstage and “left via the auditorium—as if she were a member of the audience, departing from the theatre along with them.” Any power that Nora’s exit might have gathered was undercut by Bergman’s true final image, as remembered by Törnqvist:

Left alone with her father—just as Nora had been left alone with her father—Hilde seemed doomed to relive Nora’s experience. Deprived of her mother and lacking a sister or brother, Hilde would have to console herself by playing the role of mother to her doll. In his ending Bergman clearly outlined the vicious circle in which the child with just one parent finds itself—a central issue in a social environment where divorces tend to be the rule rather than the exception.

. . .

Children appear only occasionally in Bergman’s films, and often when they are present, they often remain in the background as decorative but silent extras. Film theoretician Robert Stam suggests that by including these figures, Bergman embedded “spectator allegories” in his films. This notion refers to an event in both written fiction and films, “in which an artistic representation is brought to a halt by the naïve intervention of a personage who confounds reality with spectacle.”46 Thus, Bergman’s identification with children is not merely metaphorical; the world is often literally seen through their eyes. This is perhaps best seen in Bergman’s tendency to use his camera to substitute for a child’s first-person point of view. It is telling that in order to access our seemingly incomprehensible world, Bergman often reverts to the perspective of children, because for him:

…[C]hildren live in a world of tormented innocence. They are surrounded by tortured adults who cannot or will not communicate to them the reasons for their own anguish. Distrustful, the children seek their own answers by observing and eavesdropping on the adult world. They try, as they develop understanding, to personify and simplify good and evil. Like heroes of Greek tragedy, they are driven by a curiosity, a need to know. Bergman’s children are constantly reaching out to touch and communicate with an adult world which they cannot understand.47

When children appear in Bergman’s work, they are fighting to maintain the balance between the real, the dreamed, the nightmarish, and the imagined.

Bergman once noted that “childhood has always been my chief supplier.”48 However, all of the children protagonists in Bergman’s work seem to be drawn from a singular source—Bergman’s own childhood. As one of Bergman’s enduring muses, Liv Ullmann, saw it: “In all his…films about the father and mother, the victim is the person who is writing the film, which is Ingmar.”49 Thus, it is frequently the point of view of the young male which Bergman utilizes as a narrative framing device.

In The Silence (1963), Bergman employs a 10-year-old boy, Johan, to function as a narrative guide through a vaguely familiar but unknown world. Wandering around the fictional city of Timoka, Johan’s perspective frames the action of the film—which revolves primarily around his mother, Anna, and her sister Ester. Most curious is the phenomenological impact Johan can have on the narrative itself. The film’s initially drowsy pace is set from the opening shot, where the boy sleepily wakes up in a train car. By gazing into the camera after rousing himself, the audience is limited to seeing the world through his eyes. The main action of the film is presented through a fragmentary structure, mimicking the child’s (and thus the audience’s) understanding of the world. Three years later Bergman famously returned to this conceit.

In Persona (1966), another young boy (played by Jörgen Lindstrom, the same young actor as in

The Silence) turns up at the end of a bizarre pre-credit sequence. Once again, the boy wakes up from sleep and turns toward the camera and puts up his hand. Yet, when the angle reverses, he is shown to be reaching toward the image of a woman’s face projected onto a large white screen. As the boy runs his hand over the woman’s eyes, nose, and mouth, the image sharpens and blurs several times—the adult unable to be grasped, felt, or even understood. The rest of the film proper plays out on this screen where the woman’s face had appeared, ostensibly playing for the young boy, an audience of one.

Even in Fanny and Alexander (1982), which features both a male and female protagonist, it is clearly Alexander with whom the audience is meant to sympathise—precisely because Bergman frames the film through Alexander’s perspective.50 After all, in the film’s opening shot, the image of a theatre’s proscenium arch fills the screen. After a momentary pause, the red curtain rises, revealing small yet detailed paper figurines in classic poses dotting the stage. After another pause, the painted backdrop further back also moves out of view. Suddenly the faux theatre’s wings drop, and borders are framing the face of the 10-year-old boy, the most personal of Bergman’s cinematic proxies. Outside of the whimsical trappings of the puppet theatre, the reality in which Alexander resides is ruled over by his stern stepfather, Bishop Vergerus. After catching his imaginative stepson in a life, the Bishop feels it necessary to set Alexander straight: “Imagination, you understand, is something splendid, a mighty force, a gift from God. It is held in trust for us by the great artists, writers, and musicians…I don’t know what you imagine. Do you believe that you can lie and shuffle without any consequences and without punishment?”51 It is the reality of adulthood that is the terrible enemy which renders the child helpless, and only through their extraordinary powers of childhood imagination are they able to find the truth.

Later in his career, Bergman briefly seemed to reevaluate his tendency to filter every experience through a decidedly masculine viewpoint:

I am very much aware of my own double self. The well-known one is very under control…everything is planned and very secure. The unknown one can be very unpleasant. I think this side is responsible for all the creative work, he is in touch with the child. He is not rational, he is impulsive and extremely emotional. Perhaps it is not even a he, but a she.52

One of the few places in which a young pre-pubescent girl appears as one of Bergman’s protagonists is in one of his final screenplays, Faithless (2001). The film was written by Bergman but directed by Ullmann. Bergman had the tendency to leave children out of his films featuring fighting spouses, so it was Ullmann who made the directorial choice to not only increase the presence of the child but to use it as a framing device for the entire film: “I thought about the child because I couldn’t make a movie making this woman the heroine. To me, she made so many strange choices that I can’t feel sorry for her. That was why I showed so much more of the child in the movie. The child is the only victim. The child didn’t make any choice.”53 After screening the film, Ullmann recalled Bergman’s reaction to the presence of the child, exclaiming “Shit! Why didn’t I think of that?”

Hilde’s presence at the end of Nora places her firmly within the Bergmanian legacy of silent children struggling to understand the complex adult world in which they find themselves. Yet, Bergman undercut his purposes by having Hilde appear only briefly at the beginning and end of the play. During the rest of the production, Hilde’s presence was suggested by having her doll sitting in a chair when she herself was not present on stage. Here again, Bergman’s revolutionary spirit was hamstrung by his latent misogyny, which he may have inherited from his obsession with Strindberg. This view of Bergman may be controversial but is not completely unfounded. In an oft-cited critique, Joan Mellen suggests that Bergman might depict what “he sees” reflected in society around him, but in doing so “accepted an anachronistic view, without questioning how his adherence to the spirit of the Northern Protestant culture from which he emerges has shaped his understanding of the potential of woman.”55 She further notes that in Bergman’s films, the lives of his female protagonists:

…are ensnared at a much more elementary level of human development. Their lives lack meaning because they are rooted in biology and an ability to choose a style of life independent of the female sexual role. In this sense, Bergman is far harder on his women than on his men. They are depicted as if on a lower notch on the evolutionary scale.56

Onstage, this effect is only amplified. Like with Hilde and Nora both, as fascinating as they might have been to Bergman, women were often ultimately no more than dolls to be played with and arranged nicely.

1. Ingmar Bergman, qtd. in Stig Björkman, Torsten Manns, and Jonas Sima, Bergman on Bergman (New York: Touchstone Books, 1973), 99.

2. Leif Zern, qtd. in Birgitta Steene, Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2005), 714. Original text in Zern, Se Bergman [See Bergman] (Stockholm: Norstedts, 1993), 59.

3.  Peter Cowie, Ingmar Bergman: A Critical Biography (New York: Scribner, 1982), 13.

4. Bergman had been in Germany since early 1976. While in a rehearsal for Strindberg’s Dance of Death at the Dramaten in Stockholm, Swedish authorities stormed the theatre and arrested the director in front of his cast on charges of tax evasion. Bergman maintained his innocence but was interrogated for hours in his small office at the theatre while his house was searched. As soon as the charges were dropped, Bergman abandoned the Dramaten and fled to Germany in self-imposed exile, claiming he would never again work in Sweden.

5.  Lise-Lone Marker and Frederick J. Marker, Ingmar Bergman: A Project for the Theatre (New York: Continuum Publishing Company, 1999), 5.

6.  Ibid.

7. Bergman, qtd. in Steene, “I have never pursued a particular program policy’: Ingmar Bergman in the Theatre,” Contemporary Theatre Review 14.2 (2004): 46.

8. Marker and Marker, Project, 5. Strindberg noted that he wrote Miss Julie as a character study, as he too was interested in a concentrated focus on the passionate relationship between the two people.

9. Ibid., 7.

10. For Julie, Bergman actually added back in cuts originally made by Strindberg before publication. Among them the director is said to have fixated on a deleted note that Julie had a scar on her cheek, which amplifies the circumstances around her confession of having been whipped by her former fiancé.

11. What to call Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play has sparked many debates. The original Norwegian title is Et Dukkehjem (“a doll home”), a word that Ibsen coined specifically to describe the world of the play. Even today, dukkehjem is only used in Norwegian for the title of his drama, not to describe the children’s toy. William Archer’s 1889 translation—the first into English—used the title A Doll’s House, setting the trend for others until recently when prominent Ibsen scholars have made the case for the title A Doll House to better mirror Ibsen’s original. However, English usage has historically favored A Doll’s House, as did Bergman, so for the purpose of this essay, I will preserve it.

12. In Munich, Bergman extended this idea into his preshow. The director had his scene designer draw the exterior of the Helmers’ home on the main curtain of the Residenztheater. Thus, when the show began and the curtains parted to reveal the interior set, Bergman achieved the theatrical equivalent of a cinematic zoom shot.

13. Egil Törnqvist, Ibsen: A Doll’s House (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 94.

14. Roger W. Oliver, “Tradition and Innovation,” in Ingmar Bergman: An Artist’s Journey On Stage, On Screen, In Print, ed. Oliver (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1995), 109.

15. Törnqvist, Ibsen, 106.

16. Deirdre Donovan, “Nora & In the Shadow of the Glen,” review of Nora, by Ingmar Bergman, as performed by Marvell Repertory Company, New York, CurtainUp, February 19, 2011. http://www.curtainup.com/ noraandintheshadowoftheglen.html

17. Marker and Marker, Project, 9.

18. August Strindberg, A Dream Play, trans. Evert Sprinchorn and ed. Jacques Chwat (New York: Avon Books, 1974), 33.

19. Joan Templeton, “Updating a Doll House: Bergman, Ostermeier, Kimming, and Breuer,” In Ibsen on the Cusp of the 21st Century: Critical Perspectives, edited by Pål Bjørby, Alvhild Dvergsdal, and Idar Stegane (Laksevåg, Norway: Alvheim and Eide Akademisk Forlag, 2005), 184. Bergman was aware of Strindberg’s opinion of the play, calling it “a wonderful analysis.”

20. Vilgot Sjöman, qtd. in Törnqvist, “Bergman’s Strindberg,” The Cambridge Companion to Strindberg, ed. Michael Robinson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 152. Original text in Dagbok med Ingmar Bergman [Diary of Ingmar Bergman] (Stockholm: Norstedt, 1963), 13.

21. Strindberg to Edvard Brandes, Strindberg’s Letters: Volume 2, ed. and trans. Michael Robinson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 734.

22. Marker and Marker, Project, 7. Of course, Bergman believed Strindberg “never had that difficulty.”

23. In Stockholm, Bergman’s Ett Dockhem had 16 scenes. The added scene is that of the opening sequence with Nora reading her daughter, Hilde, a fairy tale bedtime story, outlined below.

24. Marker and Marker, Project, back cover.

25.  Ibid., 7.

26. Marker and Marker, Life, 229.

27. Marker and Marker, Project, 2.

28. Much has been made of ring composition as a result of the oral tradition, in which the storyteller used the device as a means of simplifying the larger and more complex structures at work in the story.

29. Mary Douglas, Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), xii-xiii. Despite ring composition being recognized as an ancient form, Douglas’s book is one of the pioneering studies on its existence.

30. Strindberg, qtd. in Törnqvist, Strindbergian Drama: Themes and Structure (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press Inc., 1982), 72-73.

31. Marker and Marker, Life, 229.

32. Bergman, Nora, 1.

33.  Marker and Marker, Life, 23.

34. Törnqvist, Ibsen, 98.

35. John Northam, Ibsen’s Dramatic Method: A Study of the Prose Dramas (London: 1953), 27.

36. Marker and Marker, Project, 9.

37. Maaret Koskinen, “‘Everything Represents, Nothing Is’: Some Relations Between Ingmar Bergman’s Films and Theatre Productions,” in Canadian Journal of Film Studies 5.1 (Spring 1996): 84-85.

38. Törnqvist writes much of Bergman’s choice to transpose two words in Nora’s final line. Ibsen’s play has Nora telling Torvald that so much would have to change in order for their “life together to become a marriage.” Bergman supposedly “cleverly updated it” to read “marriage to become a life together,” but neither the 1983 or 2013 translations by the Marker indicate this change.

39. Marker and Marker, Project, 14.

40. Helmut Schöd, qtd. in Steene, Reference, 714. Original text in Schöd, “Wo, bitte, geht’s zum Notausgang?” [“Please, where is the emergency exit?”], review of Nora, as performed at the Residenztheatre, Munich, Die Zeit, May 7, 1981. http://www.zeit.de/1981/20/wo-bitte-gehts-zum-notausgang/seite-3

41. Steene, Reference, 713.

42. Hans-Thies Lehmann, qtd. in ibid., 714. Original text in Lehmann, “Ibsen, Strindberg, Bergman,” review of Nora, as performed at the Residenztheatre, Munich, Darmstäder Echo, May 7, 1981.

43. Schöd.

46. Robert Stam, “Allegories of Spectatorship,” in Reflexivity in Film and Literature: From Don Quixote to Jean-Luc Godard (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992), 29.

47. Stuart M. Kaminsky, “The Torment of Insight: Children and Innocence in the Films of Ingmar Bergman,” in Ingmar Bergman: Essays in Criticism, ed. Kaminsky with Joseph F. Hill (London: Oxford University Press, 1975), 10.

48. Bergman, Images: My Life in Film, trans. Marianne Ruuth (London: Faber and Faber, 1994), 366.

49. Liv Ullmann, qtd. in, Geoffrey Macnab, Ingmar Bergman: The Life and Films of the Last Great European Director (New York: I.B. Tauris, 2009), 214-215.

50. Coincidentally, Fanny and Alexander was the final full-length film which Bergman completed between his 1981 and 1989 productions of Nora and Ett Dockhem. In this way, the film could be considered a spiritual sibling to the productions.

51. Fanny and Alexander, written and directed by Ingmar Bergman (1982; New York: Criterion Collection, 2011), DVD.

52. Kakutani, 26.

53. Macnab, 214. Like the negative response to the missing Helmer children in Nora, Bergman had weathered similar criticism for omitting Johan and Marianne’s two daughters from his 1973 film version of Scenes from a Marriage.

54. Ibid., 215.

55. Joan Mellen, “Bergman and Women: Cries and Whispers,” Film Quarterly 27.1 (Autumn 1973), 3.

56.  Ibid, 2.