Sven Nykvist
Sven Nykvist on the cover of his book Vördnad för ljuset ("Reverence for the light"). 1997.
Sven Vilhem Nykvist

(1922-12-03)3 December 1922
Died20 September 2006(2006-09-20) (aged 83)
  • Ulla Söderlind
(m. 1952⁠–⁠1968)
  • Ulrika Nykvist
ChildrenCarl-Gustaf Nykvist

Sven Vilhem Nykvist (Swedish pronunciation: [svɛn ˈvɪ̌lːhɛlm ˈnŷːkvɪst]; 3 December 1922 – 20 September 2006) was a Swedish cinematographer and filmmaker. His work is generally noted for its naturalism and simplicity. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest cinematographers of all time.[1] He is best known for his collaboration with director Ingmar Bergman. He won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Cries and Whispers (1972) and Fanny and Alexander (1982). Nykvist also worked with Bergman on The Virgin Spring (1960), Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Winter Light (1963), Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1973), Scenes from a Marriage (1973), Face to Face (1978), and Autumn Sonata (1978).

Nykvist is also known for his collaboration with Woody Allen, working on films such as Another Woman (1988), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), and Celebrity (1998). His other film credits include The Tenant (1976), Agnes of God (1985), The Sacrifice (1986), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), Chaplin (1992), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993).

Early life and education

Nykvist was born in Moheda, Kronobergs län, Sweden. His parents were Lutheran missionaries who spent most of their lives in the Belgian Congo, so Nykvist was raised by relatives in Sweden and saw his parents rarely. His father was a keen amateur photographer of African wildlife, whose activities may have sparked Nykvist's interest in the visual arts.

A talented athlete in his youth, Nykvist's first cinematic effort was to film himself taking a high jump, to improve his jumping technique. After a year at the Municipal School for Photographers in Stockholm, he entered the Swedish film industry at the age of 19.


In 1941, he became an assistant cameraman at Sandrews studio, working on The Poor Millionaire. He moved to Italy in 1943 to work at Cinecittà Studios, returning to Sweden two years later. In 1945, aged 23, he became a full-fledged cinematographer, with his first solo credit on The Children from Frostmo Mountain.

He worked on many small Swedish films for the next few years, and spent some time with his parents in Africa filming wildlife, footage which was later released as a documentary entitled In the Footsteps of the Witch Doctor (also known as Under the Southern Cross).

Back in Sweden, he began to work with the director Ingmar Bergman on Sawdust and Tinsel (US: The Naked Night, 1953). He was one of three cinematographers to work on the film, the others being Gunnar Fischer and Hilding Bladh.

Sven Nykvist with director Ingmar Bergman during the production of Through a Glass Darkly, 1960

Nykvist would eventually become Bergman's regular cinematographer. He worked as sole cameraman on Bergman's Oscar-winning films The Virgin Spring (1959) and Through a Glass Darkly (1960). He revolutionised the way faces are shot in close-up with Bergman's psychologic drama Persona (1966).[2]

After working with other Swedish directors, including Alf Sjöberg on The Judge (1960) and Mai Zetterling on Loving Couples (1964), he then worked in the United States and elsewhere, on: Richard Fleischer's The Last Run (1971); Louis Malle's Black Moon (1975) and Pretty Baby (1978); Roman Polanski's The Tenant (1976); Jan Troell's Hurricane (1979); Bob Rafelson's version of The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981); Norman Jewison's Agnes of God (1985); Woody Allen's Another Woman (1988), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and Celebrity (1998); Richard Attenborough's Chaplin (1992); Nora Ephron's Sleepless in Seattle (1993); and Lasse Hallström's What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) and Something to Talk About (1995).

Nykvist won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for two of his films: Cries and Whispers (1972), and Fanny and Alexander (1982), both of which were Bergman films. Nykvist said that his favorite cinematography was Fanny and Alexander. [3] At the 9th Guldbagge Awards in 1973 he won the Special Achievement award for his work on Cries and Whispers.[4] He was also nominated for a Cinematography Oscar for The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), and in the category of Best Foreign Language Film for The Ox (1991), in which he directed Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann.

Nykvist won a special prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his work on The Sacrifice (1986), the last film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, who by then was in exile from his native Russia. He was the first European cinematographer to join the American Society of Cinematographers, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the ASC in 1996.[5]

Personal life and death

His ex-wife, Ulrika, died in 1982. Nykvist's career was brought to an abrupt end in 1998 when he was diagnosed with aphasia; he died in 2006, aged 83. He wrote three books, including Curtain Call published in 1999. His son Carl-Gustaf Nykvist directed a 1999 documentary about him, Light Keeps Me Company.




Year Title Director Notes
1943 In Darkest Smaland Schamyl Bauman With Olle Nordemar
1945 Gomorron Bill! Lauritz Falk
Peter Winner
With Hilding Bladh and Göran Strindberg
Barnen från Frostmofjället Rolf Husberg With Olle Nordemar
13 stolar Börje Larsson
1946 Saltstänk och krutgubbar Schamyl Bauman
1947 Lata Lena och blåögda Per Lennart Wallén
Maj på Malö Schamyl Bauman
1949 The Devil and the Smalander Ivar Johansson With Carl-Erik Edlund
Sjösalavår Per Gunvall
Big Lasse of Delsbo Ivar Johansson
Bohus Battalion Sölve Cederstrand
Arthur Spjuth
1950 Loffe blir polis Elof Ahrle With Göran Strindberg
The Realm of the Rye Ivar Johansson
1952 In Lilac Time
Under södra korset Himself
Olof Bergström
1953 Barabbas Alf Sjöberg With Göran Strindberg
The Road to Klockrike Gunnar Skoglund
Sawdust and Tinsel Ingmar Bergman With Hilding Bladh
1954 Storm over Tjurö Arne Mattsson
Karin Månsdotter Alf Sjöberg
Salka Valka Arne Mattsson
1955 The Magnificent Lie Schamyl Bauman
Mike Road
Darling of Mine Schamyl Bauman With Göran Strindberg
Sista ringen Gunnar Skoglund
1956 Laughing in the Sunshine Daniel Birt
Blånande hav Gunnar Skoglund
Gorilla Himself
Lorens Marmstedt
Lars-Henrik Ottoson
Night Child Gunnar Hellström
The Girl in Tails Arne Mattsson
Den tappre soldaten Jönsson Håkan Bergström With Rune Ericson
1957 A Dreamer's Journey Lars-Magnus Lindgren
Synnöve Solbakken Gunnar Hellström
1958 The Lady in Black Arne Mattsson
Laila Rolf Husberg
1959 The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp Kurt Hoffmann
Får jag låna din fru? Arne Mattsson
1960 The Virgin Spring Ingmar Bergman
Stage Fright Kurt Hoffmann
A Matter of Morals John Cromwell
The Judge Alf Sjöberg
1961 The Marriage of Mr. Mississippi Kurt Hoffmann
Through a Glass Darkly Ingmar Bergman
Mörderspiel Helmut Ashley
Lita på mej älskling Sven Lindberg
1962 Snow White and the Seven Jugglers Kurt Hoffmann
1963 Winter Light Ingmar Bergman
Love Has to Be Learned Kurt Hoffman
The Silence Ingmar Bergman
Prins hatt under jorden Bengt Lagerkvist
1964 All These Women Ingmar Bergman
To Love Jörn Donner
The Dress Vilgot Sjöman
Loving Couples Mai Zetterling
1965 Lianbron Himself
Transit Erwin Leiser
Bernhard Wicki
1966 Persona Ingmar Bergman
1967 Roseanna Hans Abramson
Bränt barn
1968 Hour of the Wolf Ingmar Bergman
1969 An-Magritt Arne Skouen
The Passion of Anna Ingmar Bergman
1970 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Caspar Wrede
1971 The Touch Ingmar Bergman
The Last Run Richard Fleischer
Lockfågeln Torgny Wickman
1972 A Free Woman [it] Volker Schlöndorff
Siddhartha Conrad Rooks
Cries and Whispers Ingmar Bergman
1974 The Dove Charles Jarrott
Scenes from a Marriage Ingmar Bergman
Ransom Caspar Wrede
1975 The Magic Flute Ingmar Bergman
Monismanien 1995 Kenne Fant
Black Moon Louis Malle
1976 Face to Face Ingmar Bergman
The Tenant Roman Polanski
1977 The Serpent's Egg Ingmar Bergman
1978 Pretty Baby Louis Malle
En och en Erland Josephson
Ingrid Thulin
Autumn Sonata Ingmar Bergman
1979 Hurricane Jan Troell
Starting Over Alan J. Pakula
1980 Marmalade Revolution Erland Josephson Also credited as producer
Willie & Phil Paul Mazursky
1981 The Postman Always Rings Twice Bob Rafelson
1982 Cannery Row David S. Ward
Fanny and Alexander Ingmar Bergman
1983 Star 80 Bob Fosse
La tragédie de Carmen Peter Brook
1984 Swann in Love Volker Schlöndorff
1985 Agnes of God Norman Jewison
1986 Dream Lover Alan J. Pakula
The Sacrifice Andrei Tarkovsky
1988 The Unbearable Lightness of Being Philip Kaufman
Katinka Max von Sydow With Claus Loof
Another Woman Woody Allen
1989 Crimes and Misdemeanors
1991 Buster's Bedroom Rebecca Horn
The Ox Himself
1992 Chaplin Richard Attenborough
1993 Sleepless in Seattle Nora Ephron
What's Eating Gilbert Grape Lasse Hallström
1994 With Honors Alek Keshishian
Only You Norman Jewison
Mixed Nuts Nora Ephron
1995 Something to Talk About Lasse Hallström
Kristin Lavransdatter Liv Ullmann
1996 Private Confessions
1998 Celebrity Woody Allen
Curtain Call Peter Yates

Short films

Year Title Director Notes
1973 Kallelsen Himself
1976 De fördömda kvinnornas dans Ingmar Bergman
1989 Oedipus Wrecks Woody Allen Segment of New York Stories

Documentary shorts

Year Title Director Notes
1943 En Stockholmssilhuett Bibi Lindström
1946 Där lägereldarna brinna Mauritz Sandin
1961 Africa and Schweitzer Jan Sadlo
1995 Liv Ullmann Segment of Lumière and Company


TV movies

Year Title Director Notes
1969 The Rite Ingmar Bergman
1970 Fårö Document Documentary film
1971 Karpfs Karriere Bernhard Wicki
1973 Das blaue Hotel Stanislav Barabas
1980 Aus dem Leben der Marionetten Ingmar Bergman
1984 After the Rehearsal
1986 Nobody's Child Lee Grant

TV series

Year Title Director Notes
1973 Scenes from a Marriage Ingmar Bergman Miniseries
1975 Nouvelles d'Henry James Volker Schlöndorff Episode "Les raisons de Georgina"
2001 Nova Episode "Life's Greatest Miracle"


Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1952 Under södra korset Yes Yes No Co-directed with Olof Bergström
1956 Gorilla Yes No No Co-directed with Lorens Marmstedt and Lars-Henrik Ottoson
1965 Lianbron Yes No No
1973 Kallelsen Yes Yes No Short film
1978 En och en Yes No Yes Co-directed with Erland Josephson and Ingrid Thulin
1991 The Ox Yes Yes No

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards

Year Category Project Result
1973 Best Cinematography Cries and Whispers Won
1983 Fanny and Alexander Won
1988 The Unbearable Lightness of Being Nominated

BAFTA Awards

Year Category Project Result
1973 Best Cinematography Cries and Whispers Nominated
1983 Fanny and Alexander Won

Other Accolades

Year Association Category Project Result
1986 Cannes Film Festival Best Artistic Contribution The Sacrifice Won
1988 Independent Spirit Awards Best Cinematography The Unbearable Lightness of Being Won
1988 American Society of Cinematographers Outstanding Achievement in Theatrical Releases The Unbearable Lightness of Being Nominated
1996 Life Achievement Award Won
1983 British Society of Cinematographers Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature Film Fanny and Alexander Won
1988 The Unbearable Lightness of Being Nominated
1992 Chaplin Nominated
1983 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Cinematography Fanny and Alexander Won
1988 The Unbearable Lightness of Being Nominated
1966 National Society of Film Critics Best Cinematography Persona Nominated
1968 Shame Nominated
1973 Cries and Whispers Won
1988 The Unbearable Lightness of Being Nominated
1983 New York Film Critics Circle Best Cinematographer Fanny and Alexander Nominated
1988 The Unbearable Lightness of Being Nominated


The Sven Nykvist Cinematography Award is awarded annually at the Gothenburg Film Festival, presented in collaboration with the Sven Nykvist Cinematography Foundation.[6] In 2003, Nykvist was judged one of history's ten most influential cinematographers in a survey conducted by the International Cinematographers Guild.[7]


  1. ^ Cinematographer Nykvist dies, 83, BBC News
  2. ^ Borden, D.M., 1977. Bergman’s style and the facial icon. Quarterly Review of Film Studies 2, 42–55.
  3. ^ "Sven Nykvist Ingmar Bergman Cinematographer Veery Interview 1991". V E E R Y J O U R N A L. Retrieved 2019-08-23. Interview with poet/artist Steven Vita.
  4. ^ "Viskningar och rop (1973)". Swedish Film Institute. 2 March 2014.
  5. ^ Some years later Nykvist told in a Swedish television interview about joining the ASC. At first he was surprised over having to qualify for the entrance, but showed up for his interview. One of the first questions to him was, how many full-length films he had shot. He said "seventy", to which the board said, that they understood that there was a language problem; obviously Nykvist had meant "seventeen". No, seventy, seven-oh. Hrm-hrm. Than the board said "It says here, you've been doing some films with Bergman." "Yes, that's seventeen," Nykvist answered...
  6. ^ "Here are the winners at Göteborg Film Festival 2022!". Göteborg Film Festival. 5 February 2022. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  7. ^ "Top 10 Most Influential Cinematographers Voted on by Camera Guild," October 16, 2003. Retrieved January 28, 2011.