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Eclipse Series 46: Ingrid Bergman's Swedish Years

The Criterion Collection // Unrated // April 10, 2018
List Price: $47.93 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted April 25, 2018 | E-mail the Author


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Ingrid Bergman Swedish Years DVD Review


Ingrid Bergman's Swedish Years is a
collection of six
early works from one of the best actresses in film history, who is most
famously known for her countless Hollywood classics (including Casablanca
and Hitchcock's Notorious) and later collaborations with her
husband,
director Roberto Rossellini.  


With this collection, audiences can explore some
of her very
first performances, seeing works made in her home country of Sweden.
The set starts
out with smaller roles where she is a big supporting player before
developing
into lead roles where it's clear she was becoming a leading star. style=""> It isn't difficult to see why Bergman went on
to carry entire productions with her presence: she shines through as a
star in
the making at each turn.


The first film in the set, The Count of the Old
Town
(1935)
was filmed in Stockholm. It is an early example of Bergman's
comedic timing
and sensibilities. This is the most charming and lighthearted film in
the
collection.


In the story, Bergman plays a young chambermaid
who starts
to fall in love with a fellow young man named Ake (Edvin Adolphson),
who might
just be a jewel thief. There is also a charming cast of zany supporting
characters attempting to party with some booze during their country's
days of prohibition.
These goofball characters add some enlivened spirit to the romance and
mystery
surrounding this early comedy.


Directed by Sigurd Wallén and Edvin
Adolphson, who provide
the film with a surprisingly robust pacing for the-period. The film is
entertaining and offers a very early glimpse of the blossoming talent
of
Bergman. Though it was just a supporting part, she shines through
radiantly.


In Walpurgis Night (1935), directed by
Gustaf Edgren,
Lena (Ingrid Bergman) is considering getting an abortion as she falls
head over
heels in love with her boss, Johan (Lars Hanson) . Causing controversy
in
Sweden upon its original release for having a frank (for the time)
approach to
discussing abortion on film, the story unfolds with dramatic turns.


 Walpurgis Night
is perhaps most noteworthy for exploring a topic rarely depicted on
film back
in the early 1930's. It begins Bergman's turn from smaller to larger
supporting
roles. Situations unfold with one dramatic sequence leading to another.
It's a
serious dramatic part for Bergman, who begins to showcase her wider
range as an
actress.


With Intermezzo (1936), which is more
well recognized
as a title for its later Hollywood remake (which also starred Bergman).
This entry
is the first of three films in this collection directed by Gustaf
Molander. The
film is a romance starring Bergman as Anita Hoffman. It explores an
affair
between a violinist and pianist.


Bergman flexes her acting chops more as she begins
her
longer running collaborations with director Molander. Though the film
is less
impressive overall when compared to the preceding films in the set, it
does offer
Bergman's first leading role. She starts to expand her horizons more in
this
early lead performance.  class="author">


In Dollar (1938), the second film in the
set directed
by Gustaf Molander, Julia (Ingrid Bergman) and
husband Kurt
(Georg Rydeberg) disagree with one another to such a large degree that
their
unnatural balance finds a seismic shift when they decide to stay
together at a
ski lodge. What starts out as a normal visit turns into something
darker when
the couple runs into other couples staying together at the lodge. Each
couple
begins a weekend full of disagreements and crossed flirtations. The
film is a
situational comedy-of-errors as it explores the romantic relationships
of these
lodge occupants.


A Woman's Face (1938) offers the biggest
drama turn
for Bergman in this collection. Bergman herself was worried about how
audiences
would respond to the part. She plays a significantly darker character,
Anna
Holm, a blackmailer who has a disfigured face. The story explores this
much
more serious storyline with surprise turns when Anna must go undercover
in
order to be a nanny for a wealthy family. As the story develops, her
face is
restored and Anna discovers new aspects of her personality. Directed by
Gustaf
Molander, this film takes many surprising turns along the gravely road
of its
darker storyline.


June Night (1940) is the best film in the
set as it
stands out as the most accomplished. Bergman stars as Sara, a young
woman who
gets shot by her lover. After her lover goes through trial, she begins
life under
a different name and identity, living at a new house with fellow
residents. She
begins a new romance and attempts starting over.


This is a surprising romantic drama that explores
a modern
romance. Out of all of the films in the set, June Night offers
Bergman's
best performance and the clearest indication of her growing star power
which
would carry into her future Hollywood career and her collaborations
with
Roberto Rossellini. Directed by Per Lindberg, the film has the most
compelling
narrative and Bergman delivers a fantastic turn.


The DVD:


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Video:


Each film in the set is presented in the original
theatrical
aspect ratio of 1.37:1 full frame. The black and white cinematography
looks
moderately good. Each film in the set seems to have comparable quality
with decent
presentations which are in moderately good shape all things considered.
There
isn't much in the way of print damage or debris. These aren't pristine
HD restorations
but given the age of the films and source it's difficult to image fans
feeling
too disappointed by the quality of the work done by Criterion.


Audio:


Each film is presented in Mono
1.0. In Swedish with English subtitles. The subtitles are excellent and
are
free from having any glaring grammatical errors. The audio fidelity is
extremely limited. However, each film's soundtrack seems to have been
given a
decent polish with little in the way of distracting hiss or distortion
and the
dialogue is easy to understand.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">


Extras:


There are no extras on this
release.


Final Thoughts:


The Criterion Collection has done a fantastic job
of putting
together this set of early works from Ingrid Bergman. I especially
enjoyed the
first and last films in the set, The Count of the Old Town and
June
Night
. Though Bergman is terrific throughout the entire collection,
I
wasn't overly fond of the three films directed by Gustaf Edgren. They
offer
terrific performances featuring Bergman but Edgren's directorial style
felt
less appealing and too perfunctory.


Given several different directors and styles, the
set may
appeal more to some fans than to others. The performances of actress
Ingrid
Bergman are reason enough to see the films collected in this set.
However,
these are all minor works in compared to her later legacy of films.


It's a set best appreciated for its historic value
at
examining the career of actress Ingrid Bergman. For some that might
make this
release an easy purchase. However, in comparison to DVDTalk Collector
Series set
href="https://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/61781/3-films-by-roberto-rossellini-starring-ingrid-bergman/">3
Films By Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman (which I also
reviewed), this collection is less mandatory and more precursory for
interested
viewers.


Ingrid Bergman's Swedish Years absolutely
demonstrates the actresses growth as an actor and her star power but it
also
contains several films which might be best viewed once. Consider
purchasing if you
feel a need to complete your collection but otherwise it's a set well
worth
renting once but which may offer limited replay value.


Rent or purchase accordingly.


Recommended.



Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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