I think one of the shocks of the Derek Malcolm book was the absence of Ingmar Bergman, a director who had appeared in his list in The Guardian, but by the time it made it to book form, he had a cull and Bergman was one of the victims. I found this unbelievable as I still believe Bergman to be one of the great story tellers of cinema. There are many great works to choose from (Wild Strawberries, Smiles Of A Summer Night, The Virgin Spring, Persona, Scenes From A Marriage, Cries & Whispers, Fanny & Alexander all spring to mind), but I have gone for the one which will be most people’s introduction to Bergman, however, it wasn’t mine. One of the very first foreign films I ever saw was Through A Glass Darkly and I just didn’t get it, I was bored to be frank (I have seen it again since then and enjoyed it), I think all countries obviously have different cultures and this is reflected in their cinema and sometimes it takes some adjusting to this, like when you eat a curry for the first time, you may never enjoy it (like me!). Bergman is probably everybody’s introduction to Swedish cinema (I don’t really count Abba: The Movie (which is probably the worst music film I have ever seen)), although recently “Let The Right One In” might change things. Bergman was never going to do a vampire film, was he? But this film is about Death and the plague. A knight returning from the crusades is approached by death, the knight persuades Death to play a game of chess for his life in what has become one of the most memorable images in world cinema and this is one of cinemas most memorable films. A word of warning try and track down the original Tartan copy of it on DVD, the 50th Anniversary edition has no better picture quality and the sub-titles blend in to the picture and become very difficult to read.
Premiere Stockholm 16/02/1957, US Release 13/10/1958, UK release – unknown