Legendary Swedish cinematographer Gunnar Fischer passed away yesterday at the age of 100. Fischer’s lighting and camera techniques brought to life some of Ingmar Bergman’s most iconic films from the director’s early period. Though not as well known as future collaborator Sven Nykvist, Fischer’s style and visual eye has dazzled cinema-goers for nearly 60 years, though his general recognition remains mostly silent.
Born in Ljungby Vasternorrlands Lan, Sweden, on November 18, 1910, Fischer originally studied painting at Otte Sköld. Following his education, he enlisted as a chef with the Swedish Navy, before turning to a career in cinema at Svensk Filmindustri. His first film credit was as assistant camera on Smålänningar in 1935, and his first feature as a director of photography came in 1942. He worked with several international directors including Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer and British director Anthony Asquith. However, his most endearing and remembered artistic partnership was with Bergman from 1948 to 1960.
The fruits of Bergman and Fischer’s collaborations include such films as Harbor City, Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, The Magician and their final collaboration, The Devil’s Eye. Like many fellow Swedish cinematographers of the era, Fischer was a master of practical lighting and operated his own camera on all his films. Such classic images as Max von Sydow playing chess with Death or the wide dancing chain on the hill side from The Seventh Seal still move and touch viewers of all generations.
Bergman and Fischer went their separate ways after The Devil’s Eye in 1960. Bergman went on to form another strong artistic partnership with cinematographer Sven Nykvist which lasted through almost the rest of the director’s professional career. Fischer continued shooting feature films until 1979 when he retired. In retirement, he continued to be close to his craft by serving as an instructor of cinematography at several prestigious Scandinavian universities.
An interesting article and interview regarding Fisher’s time working with Bergman from the Washington Post in 2008 can be found here: