Ingmar Bergman: pop culture icon

Melissa Starker, Creative Content & PR Manager

Tue, Jul 03, 2018

by Melissa Starker, Creative Content & PR Manager

Summer 2018 at the Wex offers a rare opportunity to experience some of the greatest films of Ingmar Bergman on the big screen, most in 35mm, as part of the series Ingmar Bergman at 100. For some movie lovers it'll be a warm reacquaintance; for others a first encounter. But even if you've never seen Bergman's work, you've almost certainly felt his presence in the pop culture universe. Maybe it was in the opening of an old episode of Cheers or in one of the many Woody Allen films that reference the Swedish master stylistically or directly, or in one of a variety of shorts and scenes that use Bergman's work as a launching pad for parody. Here's a handful of favorites in the latter category.

De Düva (The Dove)
Several years before she made her feature film debut, the late, great Madeline Kahn appeared in this Oscar-nominated, dead-on spoof from 1968, with references to works including Wild Strawberries and the Bergman movie that's spawned the most comic imitations, The Seventh Seal. A lot of art houses played the short before Bergman's films back in the day, and reportedly many viewers didn't realize at first that it was a parody—a testament to actor-director George Coe's slyness. He'd later go on to become an original cast member of Saturday Night Live.

Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey
The sequel to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure isn't exactly a great work of art, but this Seventh Seal-inspired scene of gamesmanship for the immortal souls of the title characters is inspired.

Silent Strawberries
A Muppets special from the early '80s brought us this gem, allegedly directed by Ingmar's brother Gummo and starring (of course) the Swedish Chef. Somehow, the arrival of Death doesn't seem so bad if it takes the face of Beaker.

The Meaning of Life, Part VII
Monty Python's existential omnibus is a classic for many reasons (and as relevant today as when it was released 35 years ago). This scene of a dinner party that takes a dramatic downturn is one of them. A Bergman-inspired vision of Death joins the guests with a few pointed critiques, and a warning about the dangers of salmon mousse.

A Joke by Ingmar Bergman
Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo adopt Bergman's visual austerity and some pidgin Swedish for a gag that's just as delightfully cornball as you'd expect from the team behind Mystery Science Theater 3000.

A Deadly Game of Checkers
No list of Bergman pop culture references is complete without this segment from the brilliant and beloved Steven Spielberg-produced animated series from the 1990s. Death squares off against Yakko and Dot, and he puts up a heck of a fight for a literary personification of the state of non-being.