Here’s something you probably didn’t know. Ingmar Bergman screened Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor for his grandson at his theater on the island of Fårö but kept making the projectionist skip ahead to the action sequences. That’s one of the most charming revelations in Margarethe von Trotta’s cheery portrait Searching for Ingmar Bergman, a film with contents that belie its curious title. The filmmakers and everyone they interview know precisely where the great Swedish director is now (interred on Fårö) and was all through his life, following his career from Stockholm to his tax exile in Munich and at last to his quiet island off Sweden’s southeast coast. Von Trotta is not searching for Bergman; the director of Rosenstrasse, Rosa Luxemburg and Sheer Madness is tracking Bergman, toasting him and his work with his collaborators and some high-profile fans.
As the song claims about Kansas, Searching for Ingmar Bergman is a home where seldom is heard a discouraging word. But Von Trotta is persuasive in cheering it, as are directors Mia Hansen-Løve, Olivier Assayas and Carlos Saura, who appear in chatty interviews. The film’s tone is reverent, its subject so grand that, at times, the encomiums occasionally are unburdened by detail. It’s most exciting in its particulars: when she spends more time on the sensual, paranoid, lesser-known Marionettes than she does on Wild Strawberries, or when we’re treated to rehearsal footage and on-set stories from Scenes From a Marriage. Little here will surprise cineastes but much of it will charm them.
Margarethe von TrottaMargarethe von Trotta, Liv Ullman, Ruben Ostelund, Mia Hansen-Løve, Olivier AssayasOscilloscope Laboratories