Sawdust and Tinsel (1953)
d. Ingmar Bergman
Criterion Collection #412
Understanding the career of Ingmar Bergman requires understanding his initial "break out" from the European film scene into the American/UK markets. Ingmar Bergman started directing films in the 1940s. By the time The Seventh Seal was released, February 16th, 1957, he had been making films for a decade. As this Google Ngram showing the popularity of Bergman in the English language clearly demonstrates, 1957-1958 was a break out year for him in terms of audience size:
You can see that between 1950 and 1960, Berman experience a 500% rise in popularity. The release of back-to-back masterpieces: The Seventh Seal in February AND Wild Strawberries at Christmas in the same year, clearly led to a dramatic uptake among English language movie fans. This rise in popularity continued until 1975, when Bergman reached his peak, likely as a result of Bergman influenced American film makers (Woody Allen, most notably) reaching their peak.
Thus, whatever one may think of Bergman's pre 1957 out put, it's important to recognize that any appreciation is essentially in the nature of a revival. Films like Summer with Monika and Sawdust and Tinsel were, at best, novelties, and did not have the break out quality of The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries. What you see in these earlier filims is a working-out of what was to become the Bergman signature style of combining dry humor with trenchant meditations on subjects like death and loneliness.
|Harriet Andersson in Sawdust and Tinsel.|
In Sawdust and Tinsel, the story is a more conventional melodrama, though with obvious Bergman signature like an explicit acknolwedgement of human sexuality as well as actress Harriet Andersson playing her lusty peasant girl character to the hilt.