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Ingmar Bergman set the tone, Gunnar Fischer lit the mood. The Swedish cinematographer responsible for some of the most recognizable images in film history classes throughout the world died June 11 at a retirement home in Stockholm. He was 100.


Gunnar Fischer and Ingmar Bergman

Fischer credited Citizen Kane cinematographer Gregg Toland's deep-focus, high-contrast, expressionistic lighting schemes as a source of inspiration. Between 1948 and 1960, Fischer and Bergman collaborated on a dozen or so art house staples before the director of photography was banished from the kingdom, forever replaced by Sven Nykvist. The reason for the separation has never been made clear. Some speculate they had a falling out over a woman. My guess is Fischer got tired of twelve years hanging around a brooding, humorless, death-obsessed genius.

According to the New York Times, Fischer told Thames Television, “We had had a very good collaboration for many years. I made 12 films with him. But on the last one, The Devil’s Eye, we began to part.”


Wild Strawberries

Fischer added insult to injury with a snub heard round the world. Bergman requested that Fischer lens The Silence, the final installment in the director's highfaluting "Death of God" trilogy. The legendary DP had to beg off, citing a scheduling conflict: He was hard at work on the Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color television production of Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates. You can't microwave a souffle, and while the two briefly reteamed on The Touch (1970) -- Fischer designed the title sequence -- after 1960, Nykvist pretty much became Bergman's camerman of choice.


The Seventh Seal

Fischer studied painting in Copenhagen and wrote and illustrated children's books, before serving as a chef in the Swedish Navy. Among the prominent guests he was asked to entertain was an actress who became his calling card to Filmstaden in 1935.

In addition to his collaborations with Bergman and Disney, Fischer apprenticed under cinematic Holy Man, Carl Theodor Dreyer (Two People) and later teamed with his son Jens on Jacques Tati's final project, the television feature Parade.


The one sunny spot with Bergman: Smiles of a Summer Night

Gunnar Fischer was married to Gull Söderblom from 1938 until her death in 2005. In addition to Jens, he is survived by another son, Peter, also a cinematographer, six granddaughters and five great-grandchildren.

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Joaquin_de_la_Mesa June 14, 2011 @ 10:42 a.m.

I love the Seventh Seal. Durden's (Death's) "For shame" scolding of the Crusader, who has climbed a tree to hide from death, is one of my favorite movie scenes.


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