The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will be doing a retrospective of acclaimed Swedish actor Max von Sydow’s films from Tuesday, November 27 through Friday, December 14. I’m a big fan of Max von Sydow’s work and I consider him a master of his craft, so I’m definitely looking forward to catching one or two films in the series – I probably won’t be able to see more than that since my college semester is winding down and I have a lot of projects and exams coming up.
I have seen five Max von Sydow films: The Seventh Seal (1957), The Virgin Spring (1960), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Awakenings (1990) and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011). My single favorite role of those five is Frederick in Hannah and Her Sisters, in which Max does not have much screen time, but he certainly makes the most of it.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, for which Max got a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination last year, is particularly moving because his character never says a word; he relies on facial expressions, other physical gestures, a notepad and, as an extra intriguing detail, the words “yes” and “no” tattooed on each hand.
If I had to pick two screenings that I want to make it to, I would choose The Magician (1958, dir. Ingmar Bergman) and Death Watch (1980, dir. Bertrand Tavernier). The Magician is not the best-known of Max’s collaborations with Ingmar Bergman, but I am fascinated by the still photos I have seen from it. The Magician also stars Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand, Naima Wifstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Bibi Andersson, Lars Ekborg, Erland Josephson and Birgitta Pettersson, all notable Swedish actors. By comparison, Death Watch has a cast starring actors from all walks of international filmdom: besides Max there’s Romy Schneider, Harvey Keitel, Harry Dean Stanton, Thérèse Liotard, Caroline Langrishe, William Russell, Bernhard Wicki and even a young Robbie Coltrane.