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Ívar Erik Yeoman


This essay focuses on the concept of trauma in the works of Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman (1912-2007) with a focus on his films Hour of the Wolf (1968), Autumn Sonata (1978) and Fanny and Alexander (1982). Bergman’s body of work is huge and the topics of his works are various.

He was what is called within film academics an auteur who directed and wrote his own material. Certain themes arise throughout his work repeatedly and scholars and writers have linked some of these themes with Ingmar Bergman’s biographical elements, especially his childhood. Bergman himself was quite open about this aspect of his work, that he made personal art based on his own connection with reality; his fears, insecurities and anxieties. Even though he does not specifically use the words trauma himself, many of his films are focused on how upbringing shapes an individual, how the sins of the mother become the sins of the daughter, the anxieties of the father, the anxieties of the son.

To place things into context, I will introduce the reader to the concept of trauma and how it has historically shaped and developed from the early days of psychology with Sigmund Freud to select, contemporary research in health care and psychology research before introducing the writings of the most outspoken trauma thinker of today, Hungarian physician Gabor Maté. With these ideas in mind, the filmography of Ingmar Bergman will be discussed through the excerpts of a few films where the concept of trauma is present, most notably The Hour Of The Wolf (1968) , Autumn Sonata (1978) and Fanny and Alexander (1982). How is trauma represented in the narrative of these films? What do they have to say about the concept of trauma? By investigating Bergman’s characterization and analyzing scenes which deal with the concept of childhood traumas in his work and how he uses certain cinematic techniques to describe them, I will try to understand if his treatment of the phenomenon of trauma has in any way changed and developed throughout his career. Also, I will ponder on the status of the audiences that see his work and the relationship or conversation that emerges between the filmmaker and his audiences to reflect on how Ingmar Bergman’s cinema contributes to the problem of trauma.