The Museum of Modern Art began collecting the films of Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman (1918–2007) in the late 1960s, shortly after the introduction of his ubiquitous art house films in the American theatrical market by the pioneering distributor Janus Films. Through a forty-year collaboration with Janus Films, MoMA has actively acquired Bergman’s films and created preservation materials on such titles as Kvinnors väntan (Secrets of Women) (1952) and Jungfrukällan (The Virgin Spring) (1959). A recent analysis of MoMA’s Bergman holdings totals more than 350 pieces of film materials, representing thirty titles from across the relevant filmography.
While the sheer volume of the collection may be imposing, curators are continually striving to upgrade exhibition materials, fill in gaps where essential films are missing, and insure long-term preservation and storage. I’m one of those curators who is always in the collection database, poking around and looking for discoveries—in my tenure I’ve found a few!—and while I was investigating the Bergman holdings, I was startled to find 35mm English-language dubbed prints of Smultronstället (Wild Strawberries) (1957) and others. I tried to consider why MoMA might have acquired English-dubbed prints, and came up with the now obsolete rationale of opportunistic acquisitions. As recently as ten years ago, opportunities to acquire new prints from fellow film archives, film studios, distributors, or artists were limited. When the Museum was offered those dubbed prints, they were acquired with the intention of a future upgrade. Better to have than have not—this was a common curatorial approach for the MoMA Film Department and for much of the film archive field.
In 1938 the Fédération Internationale des Archives du Film (FIAF) was formed with MoMA as a founding member. Member archives were often engaged in complicated exchanges of film materials, with reimbursement calculated on a per-foot/per-meter basis. FIAF remains a vital association promoting film preservation, exhibition, collecting, and scholarship; members now actively make available from their collections copies of recently preserved works for fellow member archives. These materials usually consist of new 35mm prints wherein FIAF members charge direct lab costs to the requesting member. Our colleagues at the Svenska Filminstitutet in Stockholm have generously agreed to make new 35mm English-language subtitled prints of works from across Bergman’s distinguished career. The early, middle, and late chapters of the director’s diverse filmography are illustrated by soon-to-be acquired titles: Gyckarnas afton (Sawdust and Tinsel) (1953), Jungfrukällan (The Virgin Spring) (1960), and the exquisite Trollflöjten (The Magic Flute) (1975).
The distributor Janus Films, once again a principal factor in the development of the Bergman film collection at MoMA, is supportive of the Museum’s collaboration with the Svenska Filminstitutet. This exceptional trinity of an art museum, a film institute, and a film distributor has worked together to create the largest Ingmar Bergman film collection in the United States.