best film:  Harriet Andersson was clearly Ingmar Bergman’s go-to female lead or protagonist in the early 1950s, but his best work would not come until later, so her two best films are actually Cries & Whispers and Fanny and Alexander. These are two films where Harriet’s contribution is more modest.  She is much more predominant in Summer with Monika, Sawdust and Tinsel and Through a Glass Darkly – which are all a tier or two below Bergman’s 1972 and 1982 among-the-best-of-their-respective-decade masterpieces.


Harriet as the sickly Agnes in the towering 1972 masterpiece Cries & Whispers



best performance:   Ingmar Bergman’s camera so dotes on Harriet Andersson in 1953’s Summer with Monika (Harriet is Monika, of course) that poor Lars Ekbord is essentially cropped out of some key shots and scenes (so as to focus on Andersson). It is hard to blame Bergman, she does have an undeniable screen presence. Summer with Monika is remembered as being the discovery of the 21-year-old if it is not the nudity and censorship discussion that surrounded the film (and Bergman and Andersson herself). There is a brilliant composition at the 50-minute mark with Andersson sprawled out on the skimmer with her top exposed. This honest depiction of sexuality was definitely in stark contrast to the censorship in Hollywood. It was a sort of commercial breakthrough for Bergman (at least in the US) mostly because of the nudity.


At the 82-minute mark when Monika steps out on her husband while he works, Andersson looks dead at the camera and in a dazzling sequence, Bergman turns the lights out behind her.


stylistic innovations/traits: Harriet Andersson’s nine (9) archiveable collaborations with Ingmar Bergman gives her as many as Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson (no relation to Harriet) and a few more than Ingrid Thulin (seven archiveable Bergman films total). Harriet’s work with Ingmar precedes the work with the other three. Through a Glass Darkly (1961) is arguably her best performance and Cries & Whispers (1972) is her best film – but Harriett’s peak year is 1953 where she was front and center for both Summer with Monika and Sawdust and Tinsel. These are big breakthrough films for Bergman and his best work to date at the time.  Bibi would come along a few years later (she is in Bergman’s two big 1957 films), then Thulin (her peak year is 1963) and eventually Liv (her first film with Bergman is not until 1966).  Whether it’s Through a Glass Darkly or Cries and Whispers, “hysteria” is the singular word best used to describe her strength as an actor.  Monika showcases her raw sexuality (hard to believe looking at the Cries and Whispers picture or seeing her in some of the later Bergman films) and is a landmark film for censorship.


directors worked with:   Ingmar Bergman (9) which accounts for all but one of her archiveable films. She is one of many actors  on this and the male counterpart list because of the great Swedish master.  He is a genius working with his trope of actors. Lars von Trier (1).



Through a Glass Darkly – New York Times review –  “Miss Andersson’s flirtation with insanity is a ballet”- Walter Goodman . Bergman brilliantly uses close-ups of Harriet’s black eyes.



top five performances:

  1. Summer with Monika
  2. Through a Glass Darkly
  3. Sawdust and Tinsel
  4. Cries and Whispers
  5. Dreams


archiveable films

1953- Sawdust and Tinsel
1953- Summer With Monika
1954- A Lesson in Love
1955- Dreams
1955- Smiles of a Summer Night
1961- Through a Glass Darkly
1964- All These Women
1972- Cries and Whispers
1982- Fanny and Alexander
2003- Dogville