The Magic of Max von Sydow

From his first major performance, as a knight searching for the meaning of existence in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, to his undisclosed role in the latest Star Wars installment (due out in December), Max von Sydow has spent the past six decades cultivating one of cinema’s most illustrious careers—working with renowned filmmakers like David Lynch (Dune), Woody Allen (Hannah and Her Sisters), Wim Wenders (Until the End of the World), Jan Troell (The Emigrants and The New Land), Lars von Trier (Europa), and of course Bergman. And now, at eighty-seven, the Swedish actor “may be on the verge of becoming a pop-culture icon,” writes Terrence Rafferty in the December issue of the Atlantic.

In this loving profile, Rafferty—who calls von Sydow the “greatest actor alive”—highlights some of the actor’s best performances, from the “quiet power” of his portrayal of Father Merrin in The Exorcist to what Rafferty calls the “and Max von Sydow” roles of his later career (such as his memorable appearance in Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly). Rafferty also discusses von Sydow’s work with fellow Swedes Bergman and Troell, noting that “in those pictures, all in his native Swedish, he exercises his most remarkable gift, for portraying ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances.” And he refers to von Sydow’s performance in The Virgin Spring as “one of the most beautiful pieces of physical acting you’ll ever see.” Read the piece in full here.

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