STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Master filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, one of the greatest artists in cinema history, died Monday at his home on an island off the coast of Sweden. He was 89.
Bergman's dozens of works combined deep seriousness, indelible imagery and unexpected flashes of humor in finely written, inventively shot explorations of difficult subjects such as plague and madness.
His vision encompassed the extremes of his beloved Sweden: the claustrophobic gloom of unending winter nights, its glowing summer evenings and the bleak magnificence of the Baltic islet of Faro, where the reclusive artist spent his last years.
Once described by Woody Allen as "probably the greatest film artist ... since the invention of the motion picture camera," Bergman first gained international attention with 1955's Smiles of a Summer Night, a romantic comedy that inspired the Stephen Sondheim musical A Little Night Music.
His last work, of about 60, was Saraband, a made-for-television movie that aired on Swedish public television in December 2003, the year he retired.
Allen said he was "very sorry" to hear of Bergman's death.
"He was a friend and certainly the finest film director of my lifetime," the Web version of Swedish daily Aftonbladet quoted him as saying.
Saraband starred Liv Ullmann, the Norwegian actress and director who appeared in nine Bergman films and had a five-year affair, and a daughter, with the director.
The other actor most closely associated with Bergman was Max von Sydow, who appeared in 1957's The Seventh Seal, an allegorical tale of the Black Plague years as a knight playing chess with the shrouded figure of Death, one of cinema's most famous scenes.
His 1982 film Fanny and Alexander won an Oscar for best foreign film. His 1973 Cries and Whispers was nominated for Best Picture.
"The world has lost one of its very greatest filmmakers. He taught us all so much throughout his life," said British actor and director Richard Attenborough.
Astrid Soderbergh Widding, president of The Ingmar Bergman Foundation, confirmed the death to The Associated Press, and Swedish journalist Marie Nyrerod said the director died peacefully during his sleep.
Bergman never fully recovered after a hip surgery in October last year, Nyrerod told Swedish broadcaster SVT.
"He was one of the world's biggest personalities. There were [Japanese film director Akira] Kurosawa, [Italy's Federico] Fellini and then Bergman. Now he is also gone," Danish director Bille August told The Associated Press.
"It is a great loss. I am in shock," August said.
Cannes Film Festival director Gilles Jacob called Bergman the "last of the greats, because he proved that cinema can be as profound as literature."
The son of a Lutheran clergyman and a housewife, Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born in Uppsala, Sweden on July 14, 1918, and grew up with a brother and sister in a household of severe discipline that he described in painful detail in the autobiography The Magic Lantern.
The title comes from his childhood, when his brother got a "magic lantern" - a precursor of the slide-projector - for Christmas. Ingmar was consumed with jealousy, and he managed to acquire the object of his desire by trading it for a hundred tin soldiers.
The apparatus was a spot of joy in an often-cruel young life. Bergman recounted the horror of being locked in a closet and the humiliation of being made to wear a skirt as punishment for wetting his pants.
He broke with his parents at 19 and remained aloof from them, but later in life sought to understand them. The story of their lives was told in the television film Sunday's Child, directed by his own son Daniel.