When you have a career that spans seven decades, and you’re talented enough to forge some of the best work in your field, it’s inevitable that people will stand up and take notice. Such is the case with Ingmar Bergman, whose films are almost synonymous with art house cinema. Thankfully for us, that means that Bergman’s work has been parodied time and time again. Here are eleven great parodies of Ingmar Bergman’s films.
I’ll apologize in advance, because almost all of these are parodies of The Seventh Seal. It’s rare that Bergman’s other films got the parody treatment. That said, I think it makes a profound statement about the importance and enduring charm of The Seventh Seal.
Technically, this is a parody from The Muppets of Ingmar’s brother, Gummo. No, really. That’s what they say in the short. It’s from The Muppets Go to the Movies, from May 1981. It’s only fitting that Sam the Eagle would introduce the film, and that his high-brow expectations would be dashed by every other muppet’s chicanery. The best part is that Jim Henson- creator of some of the most beloved children’s icons in the last 100 years- was apparently a Bergman fan. In addition to this parody, he featured a quote from Bergman in Youth ’68, one of his first productions.
What separates this French and Saunders parody from the others is its thoroughness. In the first 100 seconds alone, there are references to Persona, The Seventh Seal, Through a Glass Darkly, and the entire trilogy of faith. In fact, they put it all out there right up front, calling it “one of those Bergman sort of days.” Rather than parodying one specific Bergman film or a handful of Bergman tropes, they aim for the overall feel of Bergman’s catalogue and apply it to their normal trappings. It’s brilliant. And if you don’t understand it, you can pretend you understand and read a book about it later, much like Bergman’s films.
A Joke by Ingmar Bergman
The Mystery Science Theater team loved movies and movie history, evidenced by their willingness to watch so many awful films and bring awareness of them to the general public. It’s from that knowledge of film that their Bergman parody derives. Much like French and Saunders, it succeeds because it aims for Bergman’s overall style rather than any one specific moment or set of moments from any of his films. I especially enjoy the hilariously languid camera motion. They also earn extra credit for tying in August Strindberg and Henrik Ibsen.
The Seventh Skål
What if the stop-motion version of Antonius Block had to defeat Death in a drinking game instead of chess? Apparently, massive amounts of alcohol make all Swedes sound like the Swedish chef. Hurry up and watch this. There’s a plague on, you know. Bonus points for using actual dialogue and score from The Seventh Seal in the set-up.
Love and Death
The most professional and elaborate Bergman spoof ever created was an entire film directed by noted Bergman admirer (and friend), Woody Allen. In fact, Allen borrowed quite a bit from Bergman, including in 1978’s Interiors. But the best time it was ever played for humor was in Love and Death (1975).
De Duva (1968)
This is a short film created by George Coe, a character actor who has appeared in loads of TV shows and movies since the early 1960s. It’s impressive for at least a few reasons. First, nobody breaks character with the mock Swedish that they’re speaking. Second, it features a very young Madeline Kahn. She shows up around the six minute mark and offers a cigar, which she hilariously calls, in mock Swedish, a “phallican symbøl.” Third, it’s stylistically very thorough, right down to reflected faces in broken mirrors.
Ingmar Bergman’s BBQ Sauce
There are a lot of Bergman parodies out there from amateurs, and most are middling to bad. However, there’s one that genuinely made me laugh. This short spoof ponders what it would be like if Bergman had gone into the food industry like Paul Newman. The chosen product is BBQ sauce. I don’t really think the short does a great job of matching Bergman’s style, but I DO think it’s funny. And isn’t that what’s really important?
Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
In the most unlikely pairing in movie history, stoners Bill and Ted meet the classic Bergman image of Death, and must defeat him at a game of their choosing. Their chosen games include Battleship, Clue, and Twister.
Whispers of the Wolf
Leave it to the SCTV folks to take a swing at Bergman. Theirs is the most esoteric, and in some ways the funniest. While the title is an homage to The Hour of the Wolf, the parody is almost exclusively of Persona. Hang with it through the first minute and a half, which is set-up.
Films de Bergman
Late French actor Jacques Villeret liked to parody Bergman. Specifically, he did a great job of parodying the clichéd foley work in Bergman’s films.
A Deadly Game of Checkers
Animaniacs! had a really brief, but fun, run in the 90s as a childrens cartoon that parodied pop culture. Naturally, Bergman eventually got the Animaniacs treatment. Wacky, Yacko, and Dot must defeat Death… at checkers. Bugs Bunny-style antics ensue. Or perhaps they were spoofing Bill and Ted?