Monday, June 13, 2011

Deceased--Gunnar Fischer

Gunnar Fischer
November 18th, 1910 to June 11th, 2011

"Gunnar Fischer deceased"

Legendary cinematographer Gunnar Fischer passed away Saturday June 11, at the age of 100. Gunnar Fischer shot twelve Bergman-films 1948-60 and his style had a significant influence on Bergman's early films.

June 2011


Gunnar Fischer is the artist behind the iconic scenes in The Seventh Seal, regarded as some of the most memorable images in film history.

Born in Ljungby on November 18, 1910, Fischer studied painting for Otte Sköld, lived in Copenhagen and spent three years enlisted in the navy before he applied for work at the Svensk Filmindustri. At SF he learned cinematography from Victor Sjöstrom's legendary photographer Julius Jaenzon. He started out as assistant cameraman on Smålänningar (1935) and went on to become engaged as assistant cameraman for 16 feature films before his first film as director of photography in 1942.

During his productive years from 1935-75, Gunnar Fischer worked with the most prominent Swedish directors of the day and as well as with international directors such as Anthony Asquith and Carl Theodor Dreyer. He served as cinematographer for twelve of the young Ingmar Bergman's films, from Harbour City in 1948 to The Devil's Eye (and also the title design in The Touch 1971). About their work together Fischer has commented:
"I felt privileged collaborating with Bergman. He was never indifferent to photography. He could be upset if he didn't like what he saw. Why our collaboration ended with The Devil's Eye, I don't really know. Realistically it's most likely that he thought Sven Nykvist was a better photographer."

Film critic Torsten Jungstedt described Fischer's style as following: "Fischer's cinematography is characterized by the fact that he came relatively late in life to film in the transition from silent to sound film, and was also an educated artist. But as a cinematographer he accepted Bergman and Dreyer's ideas and sense of imagery. At the height of his proficiency, Fischer gave Ingmar Bergman the faces that represent the beginning of the more intensive part of Bergman's international acclaim."

One of his last film assignments was Jacques Tati's Parade (1974) on which he collaborated with his son Jens, who is also a cinematographer.

In addition to his career as cinematographer Gunnar Fischer directed short films, wrote screenplays (1933-41) and published several children's books.

"Gunnar Fischer, cinematographer known for work with Ingmar Bergman, dies at 100"

Cinematographer Gunnar Fischer was best known for his work on Bergman films including 'The Seventh Seal' and 'Wild Strawberries.'


Keith Thursby

June 13th, 2011

Los Angeles Times

Gunnar Fischer, a cinematographer best known for films he made with Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman including 1957's "The Seventh Seal," has died. He was 100.

Fischer died Saturday at a retirement home in Stockholm, said his son, Jens. No cause was given.

Starting with "Port of Call" in 1948, Fischer also worked on such Bergman films as "Summer Interlude" in 1951, "Summer With Monika" in 1953, "Wild Strawberries" in 1957 and "The Magician" in 1958.

"The Seventh Seal," in which Max von Sydow plays a knight returning from the Crusades who plays chess with Death, was a "spellbinding, one-of-a-kind masterpiece that helped gain Bergman international acclaim," film critic Leonard Maltin wrote in his "2011 Movie Guide."

Fischer told the Washington Post in 2008 that Bergman "gave me a great opportunity to develop my artistry, as opposed to the many cinematographers that are stuck with mass-produced comedies."

Jens Fischer, also a cinematographer, told The Times in an email Sunday that his father "dared to light in an unusual style with high contrasts and deep blackness."

Fischer "gave Bergman's films that unique Expressionistic look, with their brilliant contrasts in every gradation of black and white," film historian Peter Cowie told the Washington Post in 2008.

After "The Devil's Eye" in 1960, Bergman began using Sven Nykvist as his cinematographer. Bergman, the Academy Award-winning director and writer who is credited with building Americans' interest in foreign films, died in 2007.

Fischer was born Nov. 18, 1910, in Ljungby, Sweden. He studied at an art school in Copenhagen and was a chef in the Swedish navy before starting to work in the film industry.

Jens Fischer said his father, who also wrote and illustrated children's books, was "rather shy and a very low-key person." His other credits included the Disney television production of "Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates."

In addition to his son Jens, Fischer is survived by son Peter, also a cinematographer; six granddaughters and five great-grandchildren.

"Gunnar Fischer, Cinematographer for Bergman, Dies at 100"


William Grimes

June 13th, 2011

The New York Times

Gunnar Fischer, a cinematographer whose use of stark lighting and sharp focus lent mood and psychological depth to a dozen of Ingmar Bergman’s early films, including “The Seventh Seal” and “Wild Strawberries,” died on Saturday in Stockholm. He was 100.

His son Jens confirmed the death to the Swedish news agency TT.

Mr. Fischer worked with Bergman for the first time in 1946, when the two collaborated on a test version of “Crisis” at Filmstaden, the studios of Sweden’s main film production company, Svensk Filmindustri.

It was there that Mr. Fischer had trained under Julius Jaenzon, the cinematographer for the silent films of Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller, and had developed his high-contrast, often expressionistic approach to lighting that suited Mr. Bergman’s intensely probing psychological films.

The two teamed up in 1948 on “Port of Call” and thereafter worked together on “Summer Interlude,” “Monika,” “Smiles of a Summer Night,” “The Magician” and other films, not to mention the nine television commercials that Bergman directed for Bris soap in the early 1950s.

“We came to an agreement quite early to never become each other’s ‘bowing servants,’ ” Mr. Fischer told The Washington Post in 2008. “We were never to praise each other or to give compliments about what we read in the newspaper. We were critical and could always speak our minds.”

The two drifted apart after making the 1960 film “The Devil’s Eye,” for reasons that have never been explained fully, although creative friction on that film and scheduling conflicts have been cited.

Mr. Fischer was working on the Disney television film “Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates” when Bergman needed him for “The Silence.” As a substitute, Bergman turned to Sven Nykvist, with whom he had worked on “The Virgin Spring.” Mr. Nykvist, who died in 2006, took over as his regular photographer, although Mr. Fischer worked on the title sequences for the 1971 Bergman film “The Touch.”

In an interview with Thames Television of Britain in the 1980s, Mr. Fischer said: “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.”

Erling Gunnar Fischer was born on Nov. 18, 1910, in Ljungby, Sweden. After studying painting in Copenhagen, he became a chef in the Swedish Navy.

An actress who met him while dining aboard his ship helped him gain entree to Filmstaden in 1935, where he worked as an assistant director on 16 films before becoming a director of photography in the early 1940s. In the mid-1940s he collaborated with the great Danish director Carl Dreyer on “Two People.”

He was an admirer of Gregg Toland, the cinematographer on “Citizen Kane” who pioneered the use of deep focus and shadows to keep the actors in both foreground and background sharply delineated.

“Fischer’s great skill was in monochrome,” the Bergman scholar Peter Cowie told The Washington Post. “He gave Bergman’s films that unique expressionistic look, with their brilliant contrasts in every gradation of black and white.”

Mr. Fischer left Svensk Filmindustri in 1970 and began filming series for Sveriges Television. With his son Jens, also a cinematographer, he worked on Jacques Tati’s last film, “Parade” (1974), which was made for television.

In addition to Jens, he is survived by another son, Peter, also a cinematographer, six granddaughters and five great-grandchildren.

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