One of my favorite directors is Ingmar Bergman. His films are haunting and enchanting. Few movies can say so much with so little. When I first became interested in his work I kept seeing the name Sven Nyqvist come up. I was probably 14 and didn’t even know what a cinematographer was let alone what impact they could have on a film. As I learned more about film and watched more Bergman films, I realized the similarities between all of his film’s cinematography.
Characterized by simple, natural compositions, Nyqvist creates sparse, almost empty shots in which the negative space dominates the screen. These compositions echo the actions of the film and set the usually dark mood of the film. The shot below is from the film The Virgin Spring in which a young girl is raped and murdered by a group of men who then seek refuge in her family's house. In this scene her father wrestles a tree to the ground. Although nothing important really happens in this scene the composition and action reveal the frustration and pain the father is experiencing.
Another big part of Nykvist's work is his emphasis on the Swedish landscape, particularly in coastal areas.
Ingmar Bergman's film Persona is a perfect example of Nykvist's unique close-ups which serve as the main shot in the film. These close-ups tell most of the story as one of the two main characters is mute. This technique brings you deeper and deeper within the minds of the two women in a way that dialogue couldn't. This film changed the way close-ups were shot and used in film.
Overall the simplicity of each shot in an Ingmar Bergman film creates the eerie mood which hangs over every scene. Ingmar Bergman's films would not be Ingmar Bergman films without Sven Nykvist.