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STOCKHOLM - Considered by some to be the greatest filmmaker ever, Ingmar Bergman exorcised a traumatic childhood through cinematic masterpieces that explored sexual anxiety, loneliness and the search for meaning in life.
Bergman died on Monday. He was 89. In a career spanning half a century, in which he produced more than 50 films and 125 theatre productions, Bergman became Scandinavia's most acclaimed cultural personality.
Films such as Wild Strawberries, Scenes From a Marriage, and his great classic, Fanny and Alexander, elevated him to the position of one of the masters of cinema, though it brought Sweden, his country, a reputation for melancholy.
His private life often thrust him into the limelight. He was married five times to beautiful and talented women and had many liaisons with his leading actresses.
He influenced scores of filmmakers, including Woody Allen, who idolised Bergman and paid homage to the Swedish director's classic The Seventh Seal with his early comedy, Love and Death.
"Above all there's Ingmar Bergman, who is probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera," said Allen in a birthday greeting when Bergman turned 70.
Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born in Uppsala on July 14 1918.
His father, a Lutheran minister who became chaplain to the Swedish King, caned and humiliated the sickly boy.
"It was a life-and-death struggle: either the parents were broken or the child was broken," Bergman later recalled.
Bergman also talked of a deep love for his mother and his refuge in fantasy and a taste for the macabre.
Critics have traced the recurring themes of repression, guilt and punishment to the director's strict upbringing.
In a rare interview in 2001, Bergman told Reuterspersonal demons tormented and inspired him throughout his life.
"The demons are innumerable, appear at the most inconvenient times and create panic and terror," he said. "But I have learnt that if I can master the negative forces and harness them to my chariot, then they can work to my advantage.
"Never was the autobiographical link as clear as in Fanny and Alexander," which he proclaimed was his grand finale as a filmmaker.
His last cinematic production was Saraband, a family drama made for television in 2003 that generated more high praise, and won four Oscars in 1984.
"I believe it is hard to fully comprehend the contribution Ingmar Bergman made to Swedish film and drama," said Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. - Reuters