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Margarethe von Trotta · Germany/France · 2018 · 99 mins · PG · English, German, Swedish with subtitles
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The Swedish theater director and filmmaker, who died in 2007, remains one of the most praised 20th-century artists. The praise stems from his cinematic mastery and treatment of profound themes. But Bergman was a gripping storyteller. You could even call him an entertainer. The German director Margarethe von Trotta makes that clear in the opening of her new documentary. “The Seventh Seal”, she says, both engrossed her as a viewer and made her want to be a filmmaker. Her analysis reveals the formal elements that make the oft-parodied “Seal” so potent.

Von Trotta’s search takes her all over Europe, where she interviews collaborators, critics, admirers and members of Bergman’s family, including his son Daniel Bergman (himself a film director). Upending the notion of his father as a snob, he notes that the American prime-time soaps were a key influence on Bergman’s own made-for-television drama “Scenes From a Marriage.”

Because Bergman’s auteur status is frequently coded as patriarchal, seeing him and his work through the lens of a female filmmaker is salutary. Many of Von Trotta’s interviewees, including Liv Ullmann, who acted in many Bergman films and had a child with him, wax rhapsodic over Bergman’s way with actresses and female characters.

Enthusing over an effect Bergman used in his great 1983 “Fanny and Alexander,” the director Olivier Assayas concludes, “Art defines truth.” Just about every minute of this movie shows how that’s true.

--New York Times

“An engaging and accessible look at one of the most important figures in cinema.”
“One filmmaker's love affair with another's work, a prism for other beams of light to shine through.” Rolling Stone
Cast Liv Ullmann, Ruben Östlund, Olivier Assayas
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