On the passing of Max von Sydow: still present and alive


An image from The Virgin Spring

Another old friend has died; and I daresay the friend of many others my age whose lives were enriched, and affected thoughtfully and spiritually by watching the films of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman in the 1960s.

But here I speak of Max von Sydow, the actor who appeared in many of Bergman’s film. He had that essential quality of great actors, a quality that defies analysis, called presence.

I first saw him in Wild Strawberries, one of Bergman’s best films, and certainly his most enigmatic. The opening scene is surely one of the best in film history (right up there with the opening scene in Raging Bull). Von Sydow had a small part in Wild Strawberries. As I recall all these years later he played a man who had been a psychiatric/surgical patient of the elder hero (or is it anti-hero?) of the film.

But he really came into his own as the vengeful father in, for me, Bergman’s greatest film, The Virgin Spring. It is a powerful performance. My use there of the present tense is deliberate: Like all great art it remains present and alive, and spiritually enriching. Thank you, and Rest In Peace, Max von Sydow.


An image from The Virgin Spring. A wonderful expression of a father’s love for his daughter, and she for him

One thought on “On the passing of Max von Sydow: still present and alive

  1. Thanks for this post, Phil. It seems and probably is the distant past. When I was a student at St. Michael’s College, UofT, I took a course called something like … The Theology of Ingmar Bergman with Father Bader. I certainly remember Van Sydow in The Seventh Seal … a fairly dark film as I recall but very powerful and Wild Strawberries.
    For some reason, I am now remembering another very powerful film; Aguirre, The Wrath of God by Werner Herzog. Different but in some ways similar to some of Bergman’s pre-occupations. And, a similar Nordic, dark character despite the blondness.


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