Wild nights ahead

The Oak Street’s retrospective of Ingmar Bergman’s work hits the high points and more

Niels Strandskov

Along with Federico Fellini, Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and Luis Bunuel, Ingmar Bergman reigns as one of the gods of arthouse film.

Bergman was born in 1918 in Uppsala, Sweden. Since 1946, he has directed 61 films and television presentations, most of which he wrote.

However, Bergman’s film legacy is greater than his body of work. From parody and direct quotations to more subtle inflections, his influence is felt in many of the directors who have followed in his giant footsteps.

For the next month, Oak Street Cinema will be showing a retrospective of Bergman’s work, an impressive and ambitious attempt to provide an overview of the director’s best and most interesting films. The movies vary from his earliest works (1951’s “Summer Interlude”), through his great middle period and on to his latest popular film, 1982’s “Fanny and Alexander.” The only break in this marathon will be the last two Mondays in October, and the first Monday in November, when Oak Street will present three political satires in honor of the election.

The following are a few of the highlights of the retrospective:

“Fanny and Alexander”

Of all his films, “Fanny and Alexander” is the closest Bergman has come to making an authentic cult classic. The appeal shouldn’t be hard for the average Minnesotan to grasp – the setting is early 20th century Sweden, and those little blond children are so cute. Of course, it’s something of a downer, but that’s what you should expect from Bergman, even in a crossover hit.

Shows at 7:30, Friday through Thursday.

“The Seventh Seal”

One of Bergman’s more visually-striking films, “The Seventh Seal” is set in late Medieval Europe during a plague epidemic. The film uses the device of a chess game with Death to contrast order with chaos, belief with doubt.

Shows 9:30 p.m., Oct. 15; 2:45 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Oct. 16 and 17.

“Wild Strawberries”

Released in 1957, like “The Seventh Seal,” this exploration of reverie and nostalgia begins with a surreal dream sequence that is unsettling for its simplicity. The dreamer, an aging, curmudgeonly doctor, wakes up and starts on a trip to get an honorary diploma. He remembers his youth among Sweden’s turn-of-the-century bourgeoisie when he sits down in the eponymous patch of berries.

Shows 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Oct. 22; 3:45 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23.

“Cries and Whispers”

Dying is relatively easy when it is quick. Sure, there might be pain, even extraordinary pain, but our real fear of death lies in its contemplation. 1972’s “Cries and Whispers,” allows Bergman to visit some Tolstoyan themes around death, dying and the living’s response to the dead. It’s not the director’s best-known film, but one beloved by many fans and critics.

Shows 9:20 p.m. Oct. 30; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31.