This guest lecture will focus on sex and eroticism in Ingmar Bergman’s films as a director and screenwriter from 1944 until his international breakthrough of the mid-to-late 1950s. While much scholarly attention has been given to Bergman’s 1963 The Silence as brazenly challenging and helping reform the Swedish film censorship restrictions of its time, less attention has been paid to Bergman’s earlier, subversive forays against the sex censors. As a young bohemian writer-director in a Hollywood-influenced postwar Swedish film industry, Bergman consistently pushes the envelope. He spices popular genre melodramas with exploitation elements including pre-marital sex, adultery, lesbianism, prostitution, drug use, juvenile delinquency, abortion, and suicide. Harriet Andersson’s love-goddess nudity in Summer with Monika (1953) marks it as the emblematic early Bergman erotic film (as does its litigious distribution in the U.S. as Monika: The Story of a Bad Girl by exploitation showman Kroger Babb).But other less well-known Bergman features ingeniously rattle and circumvent the censors, from the “In like Flynn” photo still of Hollywood satyr Errol Flynn over Bertha’s bedroom seduction of Jan-Erik in Torment/Hets (1944) to the red-hot lovemaking of Birgitta-Carolina and Tomas sublimated onto a roaring fire in Prison/Fängelse (1949). Diagetic jazz and swing music are often also tied to youth rebellion and liberated libidos for men and women both in these films. Sexuality and eroticism (both overt and displaced) pervade virtually all the early Bergman films as an organizing principal, even as the filmmaker moves from his dark, angst-ridden phase of youth-in-crisis in the late 40s through the more lyrical, melancholic “rose period” films of the early-to-mid 1950s (not least in his wry, sophisticated adult comedies).
Arne Lunde is Associate Professor in the Scandinavian Section at UCLA, where he teaches courses on Scandinavian cinema and literature. He is the author of Nordic Exposures: Scandinavian Identities in Classical Hollywood Cinema (University of Washington Press, 2010) and has also published in Journal of Scandinavian Cinema, Film International, Film Quarterly, The Moving Image, Scandinavian Studies, Scandinavica, and Comparative Literature. He is currently working on a book on Ingmar Bergman inside the Swedish studio system between 1944 and 1960.