best film: Cries & Whispers. Ingird Thulin is in five Ingmar Bergman films from 1957 to 1972 (Bergman was at the height of his powers, in particular, during this stretch) so she is loaded with options here in this category. Wild Strawberries, Winter Light and The Silence all warrant consideration. Even Visconti’s The Damned (also during that era- from 1969) would give a cinephile reason to pause on this category. But, ultimately it is Bergman’s 1972 crimson-soaked masterpiece (his fourth film in color- and this one won the Oscar for cinematography for Sven Nykvist) that wins out. Bergman fades to color, splices in cutaways to clocks, sparingly squeezes in some Chopin and Bach. The cinematic paintings (transcendent use of both color and staging from Bergman) of the drawing room with the white robes juxtaposing with the red décor are simply stunning. This is a film about pain… about suffering (a Biblical amount). Thulin plays Karin and she is not the only standout in the ensemble. Harriet Andersson plays the decaying Agnes. Liv Ullmann and Kari Sylwan are also marvelous.
best performance: Thulin really has a four-pronged Mount Rushmore of top performances rather than one big performance that stands above the rest. Thulin’s exemplary work in Winter Light, The Silence, Cries & Whispers and The Damned all have a case here. Thulin’s performance in Winter Light may, ever so slightly, edge out the other three. Thulin plays the crucial role of Märta Lundberg, opposite Gunnar Björnstrand’s Pastor Tomas Ericsson. The film is just 81-minutes in length and the events depicted take no more than a few hours on a Sunday in two different churches (the first service takes 12 of the film’s 81 minutes). The film has the nuclear dread from Max von Sydow’s Jonas character- and Pastor Ericsson’s spiritual (and other) postmortem. He eviscerates Thulin’s clingy Märta. Thulin is superb here- made to look ugly and in one long shot (well it is technically two, as Bergman breaks it up once) she reads a letter to the camera in closeup. The film opens in a church and closes in one- and it is Thulin’s Märta, a non-believer, who starts praying.
stylistic innovations/traits: Thulin is from Ingmar Bergman’s stable of talented Swedish actors. If one looks on the female actor side of Bergman’s trope, she arrives in 1957 after both Harriett and Bibi Andersson—but nearly a decade before Liv Ullmann. Thulin’s resume cannot match Ullmann (losing out on Persona and Scenes from a Marriage hurts) but Thulin has the best performance of the four in a film not from Ingmar Bergman- and that has to mean something. Thulin’s range is a strength for sure. It is hard to believe that the meek, homely Märta from Winter Light is played by the same actor as confidently duplicitous Baroness Sophie Von Essenbeck from The Damned. And Thulin’s 1963 is still one of those all-time great years from an actor as she was an essential part of both Winter Light and The Silence.
directors worked with: Thulin acted in nine Ingmar Bergman films with seven (7) landing in the archives. and one all-important film with Luchino Visconti.
top five performances:
- Winter Light
- The Silence
- Cries & Whispers
- The Damned
- Wild Strawberries