- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 14, 2019

Swedish actress Bibi Andersson, best known for her roles in several Ingmar Bergman classics, died Sunday at age 83, Scandinavian news outlets reported.

The actress became a worldwide star in the late 1950s thanks to Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal” and “Wild Strawberries” and then for two decades more through such films of the famed director and her sometime lover as “Persona” and “Scenes From A Marriage.”

“She has been sick for many years, but it is sad. I found out that Bibi passed away lunchtime today,” friend and director Christina Olofsson told the Stockholm newspaper Aftonbladet.

Born Berit Elisabeth Andersson, she had been in a nursing home in Sweden since a 2009 stroke left her unable to speak.

Ms. Andersson made her debut with Bergman at age 15, shooting a TV commercial, and then played the fresh-faced youth in his late-50s films while carrying on an affair with the already-married director.

Perhaps her most famous turn was in “Persona,” often voted one of the best films ever made, in which she plays a nurse isolated on an island with an actress (played by Liv Ullmann) who refuses to speak.

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After the short set-up, Ms. Andersson has the only speaking role, including a lengthy monologue about an orgy on a beach. Though the encounter is never seen and described only in Ms. Andersson’s words, critic Roger Ebert once wrote that “we visualize it so strongly, that months later we may swear it was in the film!”

Bergman himself praised Ms. Andersson for a later scene in “Persona” because, as her character collapses into insanity, she was able to memorize a scripted stream-of-consciousness consisting of gibberish. “There aren’t even two words that fit together … it’s the hardest thing to do,” he said in an interview. 

Besides her work with Bergman, she acted in about 75 films, including work in English by such notable directors as John Huston (“The Kremlin Letter” in 1970) and Robert Altman (“Quintet” in 1979).

She won her biggest honor as an actress — the best-actress Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 1963 — for “The Mistress,” a Swedish film directed by Vilgot Sjöman.

In that now little-seen movie, the debut film by a man who’d achieve his greatest notoriety for the explicit “I Am Curious” films, Ms. Andersson plays a young woman who has an affair with a married man over a year, marked by the four seasons.

Ms. Andersson also shared with three other Bergman actresses — Eva Dahlbeck, Ingrid Thulin and Barbro Hiort af Ornas — the best-actress prize at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival for “Brink of Life.”

Her other honors included four Swedish-academy best-actress prizes and two citations from the National Society of Film Critics in the U.S. — as best actress in “Persona” and as best supporting actress for “Scenes from a Marriage.” In the latter film, she plays half of a bitter couple during a dinner sequence as guests of the central married pair, played by Ms. Ullmann and Erland Josephson.

Her highest-profile late-career film was a small role in the Danish Oscar-winner “Babette’s Feast,” in which she played a Swedish court lady in a flashback sequence.

“Her significance for Swedish film was of course enormous. She also had a great international reputation. I would say that there is now a whole film world that mourns her,” Jan Göransson, press officer at the Swedish Film Institute, told Aftonbladet.

She was married three times and had one daughter, Jenny, by her first husband.

• Victor Morton can be reached at vmorton@washingtontimes.com.

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