Sight&Sound - 05.2020

(Jacob Rumans) #1
May 2020 | Sight&Sound | 15

As the knight defying Death in The Seventh Seal (1957) As the priest battling the devil in The Exorcist (1973)

level of a mind that watches wrestling?”) in
Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (1986);
his Australia-based scientist, inventor of a
method of recording dreams, in Wim Wenders’s
Until the End of the World (1991); or his heart-
rending turn as the father of the paralysed
Jean-Dominique Bauby in Julian Schnabel’s
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007).
In Lars von Trier’s Europa (1991) his voice as
the narrator-hypnotist is recognisable from the
first syllable, while in Stephen Daldry’s Extremely
Loud & Incredibly Close (2011), he doesn’t speak
at all. Late appearances in Star Wars: The Force

Awakens (2015), three episodes of Game of Thrones
(2016) and assorted videogames kept him firmly
in the public eye right up to the final curtain.
His swansong was as a Russian admiral in
Thomas Vinterberg’s Kursk (2018), appropriately
subtitled The Last Mission for its UK release.
Born Carl Adolf von Sydow in Lund on 10
April 1929, the son of a distinguished professor
of folklore, he seemed destined for academia
or the law until an epiphanic performance of
A Midsummer Night’s Dream that he saw in his
mid-teens propelled him into the Stockholm
Royal Dramatic Theatre’s Acting Academy.

Unlike the tortured artists and visionaries he
so often played, von Sydow in person took a
thoroughly professional approach to his craft,
his dry wit between takes enlivening many
a shoot. He was equally pragmatic about the
roles he accepted: if most English-language
parts didn’t exactly stretch him, they’d subsidise
more adventurous European projects. Fluent in
Swedish, Danish, English, French and Italian, all
of which he used professionally, in later years
he became a French citizen, living in Provence
with his second wife, documentary producer
Catherine Brelet, at the time of his death.


Miss Julie
Alf Sjöberg, 1951
The Seventh Seal
Ingmar Bergman, 1957
Wild Strawberries
Ingmar Bergman, 1957
Brink of Life
Ingmar Bergman, 1957
The Magician
Ingmar Bergman, 1958
The Virgin Spring
Ingmar Bergman, 1960
Through a Glass Darkly
Ingmar Bergman, 1961
Winter Light
Ingmar Bergman, 1963
The Greatest
Story Ever Told
George Stevens,
David Lean, Jean
Negulesco, 1965
The Quiller
Michael Anderson, 1966
Here Is Your Life
Jan Troell, 1966

Hour of the Wolf
Ingmar Bergman, 1968
Ingmar Bergman, 1968
The Passion of Anna
Ingmar Bergman, 1969
The Kremlin Letter
John Huston, 1970
The Emigrants
Jan Troell, 1971
The New Land
Jan Troell, 1972
The Exorcist
William Friedkin, 1973
Three Days of the Condor
Sydney Pollack, 1975

Illustrious Corpses
Francesco Rosi, 1976
The Desert of the Tartars
Valerio Zurlini, 1976
Death Watch
Bertrand Tavernier, 1980
Flash Gordon
(Pictured) Mike Hodges, 1980
Conan the Barbarian
John Milius, 1982
The Flight of the Eagle
Jan Troell, 1982
Never Say Never Again
Irvin Kershner, 1983
David Lynch, 1984
The Soldier’s Tale
R. O. Blechman, Christian
Blackwood, 1984
Hannah and
Her Sisters
Woody Allen, 1986
Duet for One

Pelle the Conqueror
Bille August, 1986
Lars von Trier, 1991
Until the End
of the World
Wim Wenders, 1991
Jan Troell, 1996
Minority Report
Steven Spielberg, 2002
The Diving Bell and
the Butterfly
Julian Schnabel, 2007
Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese, 2010
The Simpsons (The
War of Art)
James L. Brooks, Matt
Groening, Sam Simon, 2014
Star Wars: Episode VII

  • The Force Awakens
    J.J. Abrams, 2015
    Game of Thrones
    David Benioff, D.B.
    Weiss, 2016

The So
R. O.

Whatever good
I have done on
screen I owe to

Bergman. I learned
discipline. I learned
concentration and
the joy of acting.

Bergman was
courageous in
choosing actors to

do things that they
themselves might
not expect to play.

Life was exciting’

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