July celebrates the 100th birthday of Swedish writer and director Ingmar Bergman, easily recognized as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. He made international stars out of actors Liv Ullman and Max von Sydow and inspired a generation of young filmmakers, including me. In 1957 he directed his classics “The Seventh Seal” as well as “Wild Strawberries” – however I didn’t learn about him until I was studying film in college in the early seventies.
I’ll never forget taking my wife Kathleen (then my girlfriend) to the Brook Theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma to watch independent films, and Bergman’s projects were regularly featured. His greatest theme was the “silence of God,” and while we obviously came to different positions theologically, in Bergman I found a filmmaker who authentically wrestled with important spiritual questions.
He took the Christian tradition seriously, understood the existential crisis of his time, and during a period where cinema was radically changing (along with the rest of society), he taught me that the search for meaning was the highest ideal.
To a great degree, I do what I do because of Bergman, and for that, I am profoundly grateful.