Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born July 14, 1918, in Uppsala, Sweden. He grew up in Stockholm, where his father, a Lutheran minister, eventually became chaplain to the Swedish royals. His father was a harsh punisher, and his mother blew hot and cold, an unreliable source of comfort. He later speculated that she wanted to leave her husband but hung in there for the children: "That strict middle-class home gave me a wall to pound on, something to sharpen myself against," Bergman said, giving his family some back-handed credit. "At the same time they taught me a number of values — efficiency, punctuality, a sense of financial responsibility — which may be 'bourgeois' but are nevertheless important to the artist."
He was grateful for his parents having "created a world for me to revolt against."
His revolt started with an escape into self. He saw his first play — a Swedish fairy tale — at the age of 12. He built his own puppet theatre under a table, complete with a revolving stage and moving scenery, where he entertained his younger sister. He put on little works of the famous playwright Strindberg, whose dramas of torment struck a chord.
He recalled his seeing films for the first time as “an entry into heaven.” His grandmother took him to matinées at the local movie house. One of his first ambitions was to become a cinema projectionist. One Christmas, he traded 100 precious tin soldiers for a primitive movie projector, a "magic lantern," that a wealthy aunt had given to his brother Dag instead of to him. He got lengths of film from a local photography shop, and spliced together his own short dramas from this ‘found’ material.
His eccentric Uncle Carl was a failed inventor (hiding his patent applications in his underwear, and because he often wet himself, wrapping them in oilskin). He showed young Ingmar how to strip emulsion from film with hot soda water, and then paint scenes right on the strip. None of these bits of early films exist anymore, but in his movie Prison of 1949 Bergman refashioned one of them for a scene in which he had young lovers watch an antique biograph.
He went to the University of Stockholm in 1937. He worked in many student productions. He studied art and literature, doing a thesis on August Strindberg, the Swedish dramatist who was an overwhelming influence. And he wrote: plays, novels, short stories — none published.
He took a job as an apprentice director at a Stockholm theater and in 1941 joined the Swedish film industry as a script doctor. Three years later his first script, Torment, written with the film’s director Alf Sjoberg, became a hit in Sweden. Accordingly, he got his first directing assignment on Crisis. There followed a run of journeyman stuff. In 1949, he produced his first characteristic excellent work, The Devil's Wanton, about a prostitute's suicide, in which his metaphysical, psychological and moral interests came to the fore. Three films about women — Three Strange Loves, Summer with Monika, Sawdust and Tinsel –- cemented his reputation in Sweden in the '50s. Then Smiles of a Summer Night won critical acclaim at Cannes and made real money in Europe, and Bergman was free to make anything he wanted. He rose to the challenge with two masterpieces. The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries made Bergman an immediate international arthouse staple, and he entered a golden period in the '60s and '70s, that included the Oscar-winning The Virgin Spring and his Absence-of-God trilogy Through A Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence.