Bergman remained active later in life with stage productions and occasional TV shows. He said he still felt a need to direct, although he had no plans to make another feature film.
In the fall of 2002, Bergman, at age 84, started production on “Saraband,” a 120-minute television movie based on the two main characters in “Scenes From a Marriage.”
In a rare news conference, the reclusive director said he wrote the story after realizing he was “pregnant with a play.”
“At first I felt sick, very sick. It was strange. Like Abraham and Sarah, who suddenly realized she was pregnant,” he said, referring to biblical characters. “It was lots of fun, suddenly to feel this urge returning.”
The son of a Lutheran clergyman and a housewife, Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born in Uppsala on July 14, 1918, and grew up with a brother and sister in a household of severe discipline that he described in painful detail in the autobiography “The Magic Lantern.”
The title comes from his childhood, when his brother got a “magic lantern” a precursor of the slide-projector for Christmas. Ingmar was consumed with jealousy, and he managed to acquire the object of his desire by trading it for a hundred tin soldiers.
The apparatus was a spot of joy in an often-cruel young life. Bergman recounted the horror of being locked in a closet and the humiliation of being made to wear a skirt as punishment for wetting his pants.
He broke with his parents at 19 and remained aloof from them, but later in life sought to understand them. The story of their lives was told in the television film “Sunday’s Child,” directed by his own son Daniel.
Young Ingmar found his love for drama production early in life. The director said he had coped with the authoritarian environment of his childhood by living in a world of fantasies. When he first saw a movie he was greatly moved.
“Sixty years have passed, nothing has changed, it’s still the same fever,” he wrote of his passion for film in the 1987 autobiography.
But he said the escape into another world went so far that it took him years to tell reality from fantasy, and Bergman repeatedly described his life as a constant fight against demons, also reflected in his work.
The demons sometimes drove him to great art as in “Cries and Whispers,” the deathbed drama that climaxes when the dying woman cries “I am dead, but I can’t leave you.” Sometimes they drove him over the top, as in “Hour of the Wolf,” where a nightmare-plagued artist meets real-life demons on a lonely island.
In 1976, during a rehearsal at the Royal Dramatic Theater, police came to take Bergman away for interrogation about tax evasion. The director, who had left all finances to be handled by a lawyer, was questioned for hours while his home was searched. When released, he was forbidden to leave the country.
The case caused an enormous uproar in the media and Bergman had a mental breakdown that sent him to hospital for over a month. He later was absolved of all accusations and in the end only had to pay some extra taxes.