(Reuters) - Swedish director Ingmar Bergman died on Monday at the age of 89.
Bergman sought to exorcise a traumatic childhood through works whose major themes were sexual torment and the search for the meaning of life. Bergman’s work encompassed 54 films, 126 theatre productions and 39 radio plays.
Here are some key facts on his life and times:
— Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born on July 14, 1918, in the Swedish university town of Uppsala. His father, a Lutheran minister who became chaplain to the king of Sweden, humiliated and caned the young Bergman, a sickly child.
— Bergman began his career as a script writer and at one time directed soap commercials to escape unemployment.
— His break into the international world of film came in 1955 with “Smiles of a Summer Night”, a sophisticated comedy of manners set in turn-of-the-century Sweden. It won a prize for best comedy at the 1956 Cannes film festival.
— He gained international recognition with the film “The Seventh Seal”, set in the Middle Ages, in which a crusader searching for God and the meaning of life plays chess with death. It won the jury prize at the 1957 Cannes film festival.
— Films like “Wild Strawberries”, “Scenes From a Marriage” and “Fanny and Alexander”, set in the clear light of a rugged north, gave Sweden a reputation for melancholy and elevated Bergman into one of the masters of the modern cinema.
— Bergman’s self-proclaimed retirement from cinema followed the making of “Fanny and Alexander”. Produced in three- and five-hour versions, the film won four Oscars in 1984, including best foreign film. The story is about an Uppsala upper-class family meeting at Christmas in the years preceding World War One.
— Bergman was appointed director of Sweden’s national theatre, the Royal Dramatic Theatre, in 1963.
— He directed three films abroad, one of them, “The Autumn Sonata”, bringing together Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Bergman. The Swedish actress was not related to him.
— Offstage, Bergman’s private life was often thrust into the limelight. He was married five times to beautiful and gifted women and was known for liaisons with his leading actresses.
— His four ex-wives, including a dancer, a director and a pianist, continued to speak highly of him as did the actresses with whom he had affairs, among them Norwegian Liv Ullmann, his companion of the late 1960s.
— The message he transmitted through eloquent but lonely characters was one of unredeemed gloom. “My need is to be dead. Absolutely, totally, dead”, as one character put it in “Wild Strawberries”.