Autumnal explorations of mortality and desire, and the occasional light touch of summer, make up “Darkness Unto Light: The Cinema of Ingmar Bergman,” a retrospective showing at the Harvard Film Archive, as well as Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Cinema and Harvard Square’s Brattle Theatre, through Oct. 14.
Haden Guest, director of the Harvard Film Archive, called the Swedish filmmaker, who died in 2007, “one of the towering figures of modern cinema,” noting the continued relevance of works ranging from the popular “Wild Strawberries” (1957) to the dreamy and difficult made-for-television “From the Life of Marionettes” (1980). With an instantly recognizable style that combines stark lighting, evocative acting, and often surreal situations, Bergman’s films “deal quite unflinchingly with questions about religious faith, human relationships and their precariousness, as well as human desire and its strangeness at times,” said Guest.
“To me films like ‘Through A Glass Darkly,’ ‘Seventh Seal,’ ‘Persona,’ and ‘The Magician’ were like no other,” he added. “They confront us and force us to confront difficult questions. What does it mean to believe in a God? To believe in humanity, really? What are the limits of possibility for love when we’re confronted by the savagery and strangeness of human desire?”
More than 30 films spanning the director’s nearly six-decade-long career are being shown over the course of the festival, several with multiple screenings. The Harvard Film Archive, with its own copies of rare 35 mm archival prints, is screening 20 films (including the three works of the faith trilogy, “Through a Glass Darkly,” “Winter Light,” and “The Silence”). The Brattle is showing 11 films, while the Coolidge Corner is showing five, including a screening of “Wild Strawberries” at sundown Sept. 26 at Mount Auburn Cemetery.