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Ingmar Bergman’s 3 Rules for Moviegoing

Ingmar Bergman's 3 Rules for Moviegoing

We dug up this story from the Sight and Sound archives penned by Ingmar Bergman’s daughter Lena, who remembers her father’s very specific movie-watching habits.

Inside a converted barn on Fårö island, just off the mainland of southeast Sweden, Bergman had his own private cinema, where he watched his favorite movies every day at 3 o’clock. Except on Saturdays, when movies started at 2. Bergman, who died in 2007 and was also known for his vast personal library of film titles including thousands of VHS tapes, watched films six days a week using a film projector.

READ MORE: Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Cries and Whispers’ Endures on Criterion Blu-ray

“I have tried to calculate the number of hours that Ingmar must have spent in his cinema watching movies – sitting, or rather lying, in the armchair in the front row, his feet on the footstool,” wrote Lena Bergman.

“Imagine: every day after his noon nap, Ingmar would get into his red jeep and arrive at his cinema just before three o’clock. He would spend two hours there… A movie six days a week, from May to October, for roughly 30 years; in addition, for three days a week throughout July he would invite his large family, who would be staying on Fårö, to evening screenings. He may have spent around 8,000 hours in his cinema. Little wonder, then, that Ingmar’s presence can be felt there.”

Before screenings started, Bergman would tell his guests “I take no responsibility whatsoever for this film – you are here at your own risk” — the same could be said of the filmmaker’s own oeuvre. Bergman showed many black-and-white classics in his cinema, including Buster Keaton. These are the movies that had the serious Swede laughing his head off.

Here are Bergman’s three irreverent “rules of engagement,” according to Lena:

1. Punctuality
“Everyone is familiar with Ingmar’s penchant for punctuality.”

2. Continuity
“Going to the movies on rainy days alone, or just watching especially interesting films, was out of the question. So was spending sunny days on the beach, or choosing to skip the more challenging films. What you needed, in short, was obsessive cinematic dedication.”

3. Willingness
“Ingmar often told us it pained him to see how Liv Ullmann’s dachshund expressly revealed its boredom with a film. In other words, you weren’t allowed to get bored or fall asleep. I particularly recall a documentary about a sawmill. The film just went on and on – footage of logs being split in perpetuity.”

In other words, show up on time, see everything you can and be engaged, even when you’re bored.

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