A Shout Out For Gunnar Bjornstrand

Often times when watching the work of a top actor, one gets used to the high standard without focusing on the elements which make each performance great. Such a performer was Swedish actor Gunnar Bjornstrand. He appeared in many Ingmar Bergman films – most of his performances were in films which were released between 50 and 60 years ago. Bjornstrand left us in 1986. Time passes and tastes in film change. One has to look way back. He generally played reserved, sometimes seemingly repressed characters – usually lawyers, doctors or fathers of a household. I admired his work, but did not really appreciate it until recently I happened to see his work in three Bergman films (Smiles Of A Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, and The Magician). If we line these performances up side by side, we have a prosperous lawyer juggling a lost love, a young wife and a mistress (and still retaining our sympathy) , a brawling squire to a knight returning from the crusades and a cold-blooded doctor. Compare the scene where the squire breaks up a fight in a tavern to the glint in the doctor’s eye when he is about to perform an autopsy on an old enemy. Bjornstrand was one versatile guy.

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