“The long route” is a term often used in the film industry to describe to the route to directing taken by those who have never been to film school yet have still managed to succeed. It could also be applied to other roles in the industry, and the costume designer Inger Pehrsson is an excellent example. Entirely self-taught, as a clothes designer she is unable to sketch in the customary fashion yet has worked with many of the greatest names: Bergman, Grede, Hallström, Alfredson & Danielsson, Hellbom, Josephson, Kulle, Sjöman, Tati, Tarkovsky, Ullmann, Widerberg and many more.
The reason, of course, is her extraordinary talent for the job: but her intuition and empathetic personality, her serenity and her good humour have also played their part. For a film crew to work in harmony for a couple of months, people who spread cheer are vital. Inger Pehrsson is just such a person.
She was not exactly inexperienced when she began. As a teenager she was a model who had come into contact with fashion designers like Kerstin Lokrantz och Gunvor Pontén. She began to work as an assistant and was allowed to join in when they made clothes for various films. Yet she was still somewhat taken aback when Svensk Filmindustri called asking her if she would like to make the clothes for Hans Alfredson and Tages Danielsson’s Docking the Boat (Att angöra en brygga, 1965).
She could hardly have had a better start, and from then onwards things developed a momentum of their own. As a period piece, Jarl Kulle’s The Bookseller Gave Up Bathing (Bokhandlaren som slutade bada, 1969), presented something of a challenge, yet all she needed was to do her homework. Then came Emil in Lonneberga (Emil i Lönneberga, 1971), from which a cherished memory is when she and Astrid Lindgren (the author of the book upon which the film is based) travelled round the Swedish province of Småland (where the film is set), borrowing old clothes that might be suitable. She worked on a dozen Astrid Lindgren films oven the years, the last of which was Kalle Blomkvist och Rasmus (‘Kalle Blomkvist and Rasmus,’ 1997).
Her partnership with Alfredson and Danielsson also continued, with The Apple War (Äppelkriget, 1971) and The Man Who Quit Smoking (Mannen som slutade röka, 1972). At SF/Artfilm she also got to work on the costumes for all of Lasse Hallström’s films up to and including My Life as a Dog (Mitt liv som hund, 1985), before he went off to Hollywood. In parallel she had a 30 year partnership with Ingmar Bergman, from Scenes From a Marriage (Scener ur ett äktenskap, 1973) to Saraband (2003), which also resulted in Pehrsson becoming the favourite of the entire Bergman stable. She made the costumes for all of Erland Josephson’s and Liv Ullmann’s films, including Kristin Lavransdatter (1995), and also films by Gunnel Lindblom and Sven Nykvist. For Erland Josephson she made the costumes for Marmalade Revolution (Marmeladupproret, 1980) and for Gunnel Lindblom she did the costumes and set designs for two films.
In 1986 she worked with two very different directors: Bo Widerberg, with The Serpent’s Way (Ormens väg på hälleberget) and Andrei Tarkovsky, with The Sacrifice (Offret). Both were strong personalities, but working with them went extremely well, just as it did in 1990 when she made the costumes for Kjell Grede’s Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg (God afton, herr Wallenberg), large parts of which were filmed in Budapest.
In between films Pehrsson often stood for the costumes at Stockholm’s Maxim Theatre and Oscars, and also occasionally at the Royal Dramatic Theatre, for example when Arthur Miller came over and Lars Amble staged his play “Death of a Salesman” starring Jarl Kulle.
In 1988 she was the recipient of the Ingmar Bergman Award. Citing from the motivation, the director wrote on the award plaque: “Chaos is the neighbour of God”. He knew that with Inger Pehrsson around, things would always work out.
Bengt Forslund (2015)
(translated by Derek Jones)
Main profession: Other profession
Sally och friheten (1981)
Bakomfilm Festivitetssalongen (1965)
Kalle Blomkvist och Rasmus (1997)
Svenska hjältar (1997)
Enskilda samtal (1996)
Kalle Blomkvist – mästerdetektiven lever farligt (1996)
Kristin Lavransdotter (1995)
Lotta 2 (1993)
Lotta på Bråkmakargatan (1992)
God afton, herr Wallenberg (1990)
Mer om oss barn i Bullerbyn (1987)
Alla vi barn i Bullerbyn (1986)
Jönssonligan dyker upp igen (1986)
Morrhår och ärtor (1986)
Ormens väg på hälleberget (1986)
Mitt liv som hund (1985)
Efter repetitionen (1984)
Sköna juveler (1984)
Kalabaliken i Bender (1983)
P & B (1983)
Två killar och en tjej (1983)
Montenegro eller Pärlor och svin (1981)
Operation Leo (1981)
Rasmus på luffen (1981)
Sally och friheten (1981)
Madicken på Junibacken (1980)
Mannen som blev miljonär (1980)
Du är inte klok Madicken (1979)
Jag är med barn (1979)
Min älskade (1979)
En och en (1978)
Mina drömmars stad (1976)
Jorden runt med Fanny Hill (1975)
Lejonet och Jungfrun (1975)
Scener ur ett äktenskap (1974)
Världens bästa Karlsson (1974)
Emil och griseknoen (1973)
Om 7 flickor (1973)
Scener ur ett äktenskap (1973)
Mannen som slutade röka (1972)
Nya hyss av Emil i Lönneberga (1972)
Brother Carl (1971)
Emil i Lönneberga (1971)
Bokhandlaren som slutade bada (1969)
“Tofflan” – en lycklig komedi (1967)
Att angöra en brygga (1965)
Miraklet i Småland (2005)
Den ofrivillige golfaren (1991)
Fly till vatten och morgon (1991)
Bakom jalusin (1984)
Niklas och Figuren (1971)
Fritänkaren – filmen om Strindberg (1994)
Ingmar Bergman-priset 1988
Årets Klappa 1982