The legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman oftentimes is described as incorporating the language of existential philosophy into his films. Common in his work from the late '50s onward are characters who experience a strong sense of angst and hopelessness after questioning their faith in God (The Seventh Seal), the crumbling of their personal psyche (Through A Glass Darkly), or otherwise some sort of horrifying tragedy in their life (Cries and Whispers).

Although Bergman was a filmmaker, his personal stances on a large amount of existential topics are expounded by the characters and narratives of his films, much the same way Dostoevsky's views are found throughout his fiction. There is no shortage of film scholarship on Bergman's work, but I am wondering if any philosophers (continental or otherwise) have written on his ideas in the same way they would treat Dostoyevsky, or even Sartre's or Camus' fiction.

Have any philosophers written about Bergman's philosophy of how we as humans should cope with angst and the crumbling of personal identity? How does Bergman's analysis of these topics and offered solutions compare to those of, say, Kierkegaard, especially concerning Bergman's conception of the silence of God (The Seventh Seal)?

  • Ingmar touched on the subject of (emptiness)[en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emptiness#Buddhism] in The Seventh Seal. And the prosecuted woman witnessing emptiness, just before hed death, was a witch. In my opinion, withes are, more than any philosopher, most familiar or acquainted with human interiority. So death is emptiness. Dec 25, 2020 at 21:49

2 Answers 2


Does being a professor of philosophy make you a philosopher? Perhaps. Paisley Nathan Livingston is a professor of philosophy and has published a book

Cinema, Philosophy, Bergman: On Film as Philosophy, Oxford UP, 2009, 215pp.

reviewd in NDPR, where you can read something about Bergman's existentialism

Livingston's argument here, and the feature that makes it most original as an interpretation of Bergman's oeuvre, is that Bergman's films were systematically informed by -- and 'mesh powerfully' (127) with -- the philosophy of the Finnish positivist, Eino Kaila. Bergman was quite explicit about the influence on him of Kaila's treatise in philosophical psychology, Psychology of the Personality (1934). But, Livingston argues, the relative obscurity of Kaila outside of Scandinavia, and the fact his Psychology has only ever been translated into Danish and Swedish, has led Bergman scholars to neglect the Kaila connection, preferring to interpret Bergman's films in the light of more canonical philosophers such as Kierkegaard, and the existentialist movement more generally, as well as psychoanalysis.


You can find the tracing of existential philosophy and analysis in the works by Francis Schaefer in his book escape from reason. he talks through what he calls an upper story idea of existentialism existing in the mind of a philosophers and a lower story idea as a trickles out in society. He speaks about he's like the silent, and points out how the existential standpoint shine through in that film in many other cultural areas.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .