Stockholm, 15 June 1923.
Actor with the Municipal Theatre, Helsingborg, Sweden, 1945–49;
Gothenburg Theatre, 1949–56; and Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm,
from 1956; 1958—film debut in
; director, Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm, 1966–75;
1977—in TV version of
Scenes from a Marriage
; co-director of first film,
En och En
, 1978; also writer and producer.
Swedish Gold Bug Award for Best Actor, for
c/o Royal Dramatic Theatre, Nybroplan, Box 5037, 102 41 Stockholm,
Films as Actor:
Ansiktet ( The Magician ; The Face ) (Bergman) (as Egerman); Nära livet ( Brink of Life ; So Close to Life ) (Bergman) (as Anders)
Vargtimmen ( Hour of the Wolf ) (Bergman) (as Baron Von Merkens); Flickorna ( The Girls ) (Zetterling and Hughes)
En Passion ( A Passion of Anna ; The Passion ) (Bergman) (as Elis Vergerus)
Viskningar och rop ( Cries and Whispers ) (Bergman) (as doctor)
Scenes from a Marriage (Bergman) (as Johan)
Monismanien 1995 ( Monismania 1995 ) (Fant) (as teacher)
Ansikte mot Ansikte ( Face to Face ) (Bergman) (as Dr. Tomas Jacobi)
Den Allvarsamma Leken ( Games of Love and Loneliness ; The Serious Game ) (as Editor-in-Chief Doncker); Oltre il bene e il male ( Beyond Good and Evil ; Au-dela du bien et du male ) (Cavani) (as Friedrich "Fritz" Nietzsche)
Herbstsonate ( Autumn Sonata ; Hostsonaten ) (Bergman) (as Josef)
Die erste Polka ( The First Polka ) (Emmerich) (as Leo Maria); Dimenticare Venezia ( To Forget Venice ) (as Nicky); A Look at Liv ( Norway's Liv Ullmann ; Liv Ullman's Norway ) (Kaplan—doc)
Karlekan ( Love ) (as Erland)
Montenegro ( Montenegro—Or Pigs and Pearls ) (Makavejev) (as Martin Jordan)
Bella Donna (Keglevic) (as Max); Fanny och Alexander ( Fanny and Alexander ) (Bergman) (as Isak Jacobi); Variola vera (Markovic)
La casa del tappetto giallo ( The House of the Yellow Carpet ) (as stranger); Nostalghia ( Nostalgia ) (Tarkovsky) (as Domenico)
Un caso di incoscienza ( A Case of Irresponsibility ) (as Erik Sander); Dirty Story (as Gabriel Berggren); Efter Repetitioner ( After the Rehearsal ) (Bergman) (as Henrik Vogler); Angelas Krig ( Angela's War ) (as Goldberg); Bakom Jalusin ( Behind the Shutters )
The Flying Devils ( De Flyngande Djavlarna ) (Refn) (as Oscar Seidenbaum)
Amorosa (Zetterling) (as David Sprengel); L'ultima Mazurka (Bettettini) (as Serra); Le Mal d'aimer ( The Malady of Love ; The Devil's Tail ) (Treves) (as Robert's father); Offret ( The Sacrifice ) (Tarkovsky) (as Alexander); Saving Grace (Robert M. Young) (as Monsignor Francesco Ghezzi); Garibaldi—The General (as Cavour)
Il giorno prima ( The Day Before ) (Montaldo); Testament d'un poete Juif assassine ( Testament of a Murdered Jewish Poet ) (as Zupanev); Control (Montaldo—for TV)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Kaufman) (as the Ambassador); La donna spezzata ( A Woman Destroyed ) (as Maurizio)
La Guerre la plus glorieuse ( Migrations ) (Petrovic); Hanussen (Szabó) (as Dr. Bettelheim); Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (Leszczylowski—doc) (as narrator)
God afton, Herr Wallenberg ( Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg ) (Grede) (as Stockholm rabbi); Il Sole buio ( The Dark Sun )
The Ox ( Oxen ) (Nykvist) (as Silver); Cattiva (Eggleston and Lizzani) (as Prof. Brokner); Meeting Venus (Szabó) (as Jorge Picabia); Prospero's Books (Greenaway) (as Gonzalo)
Sofie (Ullmann) (as Semmy); Den ofrivillige golfaren ( The Accidental Golfer ) (Aaberg) (as the critic)
The Dancer ; The Last Witness (Sundvall) (as Samuel Rosenbaum)
Dromspel ( Dreamplay ) (Straume) (as blind man)
To Vlemma tou Odyssea ( Ulysses' Gaze ; The Gaze of Odysseus ; Le Regarde d'Ulysse ) (Angelopoulos) (as preserver); Vendetta (Haafström) (as OM); The Forbidden Fruit (as landlord); Kristin Lavransdatter (Ullmann) (as Brother Edvin); Pakten ( The Sunset Boys ) (Risan); Magisk cirkel (Enquist—for TV) (as Henry)
À la recherche de Erland Josephson ; Larmar och gör sig till ( In the Presence of a Clown ) (Bergman—for TV) (as Osvald Vogler)
Den Tatuerade änkan (Molin—for TV) (as Per Gunnarsson); Från regnormarnas liv (Enquist—for TV) (as Johan Ludvig Heiberg); Ivar Kreuger (Molin—mini for TV); Magnetisörens femte vinter ( Magnetist's Fifth Winter ) (Henriksen) (as Mr. Hofverberg)
Films as Actor and Co-Director:
En och En ( One and One ) (with Nykvist and Thulin) (as Uncle Dan, + co-pr, sc)
Marmeladupproret ( The Marmalade Revolution ; La Revolte des confitures ) (with Nykvist) (as Karl Henrik Eller, + pr, sc)
För att inte tala om alla dessa kvinnor ( All These Women ; Now about All These Women ) (Bergman) (co-sc)
By JOSEPHSON: books—
Cirkel , 1946.
Spegeln och en portvakt , 1946.
Spel med bedrovade artister , 1947.
Ensam och fri , 1948.
Lyssnarpost , 1949.
De vuxna barnen , 1952.
Utflykt , 1954.
Sallskapslek , 1955.
En berattlelse om herr Silberstein , 1957; published as A Story about Mr. Silberstein , Evanston, Illinois, 1995.
Kungen ur leken , 1959.
Doktor Meyers sista dagar , 1964.
Kandidat Nilssons forsta natt , 1964.
Lejon i Overgangsaldern ( pjas Dromaten ), 1981.
Loppans kvallsvard: roman , Stockholm, 1986.
Sanningslekar , Stockholm, 1990.
Föreställningar , Stockholm, 1991.
Sjalvportratt: en egocentrisk dialog , Stockholm, 1993.
By JOSEPHSON: articles—
Interview with F. Grosoli, in Cineforum (Bergamo), June/July 1984.
Interview with A. Philippon, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March 1985.
Interview with C. Blanchet, in Cinéma (Paris), 15 January 1986.
"Bergmans vaccinationsmetod eller Har Gud ont i magen?," in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 30, nos. 2–3, 1988.
Interview with Hubert Niogret, in Positif (Paris), February 1988.
"Den exotiska galenskapen," in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 33, no. 1, 1991.
"Mastaren och erland," in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 33, no. 2, 1991.
"Ich war neugierig auf diese Heraus forderung," in Film und Fersehen (Potsdam, Germany), vol. 21, no. 3, 1993.
* * *
In Prospero's Books , Erland Josephson plays Gonzalo to Gielgud's eponymous hero, and has most of his lines spoken for him. He is not seen till near the end of the picture. When he finally appears, his grizzled physiognomy and guttural tones, that earthiness he brings to his screen roles are ill-matched against Greenaway's graphics and against the full armory of Japanese video technology. Steeped in Ibsen and Strindberg, a distinguished Swedish actor, here, Josephson discovers, his accomplishments count for nothing. Not that Josephson is unused to indignity. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being , he plays the role of a former ambassador reduced to barroom status by 1968 and all that. Nevertheless, he makes a natural Lear or Prospero himself, albeit rather less mellifluous than Gielgud, and Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky in particular have used him to depict teetering monarchs of one sort or another.
As Alexander in Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice , Josephson surveys death and destruction, imagines a holocaust. There is something saturnine, verging on the leaden, in his playing: his features, suffused with gloom and mapped with wrinkles, easily lend themselves to the grim melancholy of close-ups. On a more intimate level, as the "husband" to Liv Ullmann's wife in Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage , Josephson offers an effective rendering of that old archetype, the middle-class, middle-aged and largely sedentary man driven to menopausal despair. Here, he starts off as a bearded bourgeois gentleman, chewing on his pipe, but, as his marriage frays at the edges, and as he and Ullmann engage in a fit of anguished psycho-drama, stripping each others' characters and pretensions bare, he emerges as a confused, baffled outcast, estranged from his family, background, and profession. This is television territory. The marital conflict is mainly confined to the home: to bedroom, sitting room, kitchen. As Ullmann gains in strength, Josephson seems to dwindle. By the end of the film, he has reconciled himself to disappointment (and has forsaken the family Volvo in favor of a tiny, cramped Citroen).
Unlike his contemporaries in Bergman Rep, most notably Max Von Sydow and Ullmann, Josephson has not been lured to America to caricature his gloomy Scandinavian persona in Woody Allen comedies or to take parts as assassins in political thrillers. He has been too busy in Sweden. He has published poetry, novels, short stories, stage plays, plays for radio and plays for television, and he has written several film scripts. He is active in Swedish Equity. He finds time to teach drama. Still, outside his native country, he remains in Bergman's shadow.
When Tarkovsky, having recently left Russia, wanted an actor to convey his poignant longing for his homeland, his "nostalgia," he chose Josephson. It is Josephson's face which makes him so effective on film, that bearlike aspect, his ability to look lost and forlorn, to convey a sense of suffering and bewilderment, in spite of his bluff exterior. Were one to repeat Kuleshov's famous experiment of the 1920s and to intercut the same shot of Josephson with images of joy, of sadness, of anger, of hunger, the audience would find the Swedish actor, even though he had not moved a muscle, wondrously expressive, capable of embodying every emotion just through "being there," in front of the cameras. Nevertheless, he has the rare ability to combine a capacity for rage—for the grand gesture on the blasted heath—with a more subtle skill for understatement and comedy.
—G. C. Macnab