Monitor picks

We look back at five of the best Ingmar Bergman films of all time.

If you've been reading about the great Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman this week – he died on Monday –you're probably wondering which of his over 50 films you should summon from your favorite DVD outlet. With a film artist as prodigiously productive as Bergman, any attempt to narrow his oeuvre to a manageable quintet is a fool's game, but here goes anyway.

– Peter Rainer, film critic

Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)

This bittersweet roundelay, set in the late 19th century on a country estate over the weekend, is the one of the great lyrical romances in movie history. Unlike many of Bergman's other movies, the focus here is squarely on Man and not on God and Man. Woody Allen riffed on this film for his "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" and, of course, Stephen Sondheim used it as the basis for his musical, "A Little Night Music."

Wild Strawberries (1957)

Bergman's renders with almost unbearable poignancy the end-of-life odyssey of an aged professor, played supremely well by Victor Sjöström – who was himself a great director.

The Seventh Seal (1957)

Max Von Sydow plays a spiritually bereft medieval knight on his way back from the Crusades who famously plays chess with Death in this quintessential Bergman masterpiece.

Shame (1968)

Perhaps the least known of Bergman's best, it stars his longtime collaborators Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullmann as a troubled married couple coping with the effects of civil war. It's an apocalyptic vision that, in its closing moments, has a Samuel Beckett-like bleakness.

The Magic Flute (1975)

Easily the finest of all filmed operas, and one of the most elating movies ever made.

Not enough Bergman for you? Also recommended: "Summer Interlude," The Naked Night," "The Virgin Spring," "Persona," "Cries and Whispers," "Scenes From a Marriage," "An Autumn Sonata," and "Fanny and Alexander."

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