Marik Vos knew by the age of twelve that she wanted to be a set designer. But for want of any formal training course for the profession she put together her own. She attended the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm where she studies “decorative painting”, perspective theory and watercolour. At the same time she studied at Otte Sköld’s School of Painting and became a pupil of the artist and ceramist Sven Erik Skawonius at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in order to immerse herself in genuine set design.
In 1944 she was asked to join the Royal Dramatic Theatre and remained its faithful servant for 40 years. From 1947 onwards she alternated as costume designer/costume maker and set designer for more that 120 productions.
Her debut as a theatrical set designer came with Olof Molander’s production of Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard” which was followed by many years of collaboration with directors such as Alf Sjöberg, Mimi Pollak, Rune Carlsten, Per-Axel Branner, Bengt Ekeroth and not least Ingmar Bergman. Their first production together was another Chekov play, “The Seagull” in 1961, for which Vos was responsible for both the sets and the costumes.
Bergman soon drew Vos over to film, and it is mainly for their fruitful partnership that she became best known. As a novice in the film business Vos forgot some costume items on the first day of the shoot for The Virgin Spring (Jungfrukällan, 1961) she was given some sound advice by Bergman. From then onwards their partnership was characterised by a shared philosophy of the costume as an actor’s second skin, and Vos was always keen to make sure that her actors were comfortable in the clothes she created for them.
They also saw eye-to-eye on set design, in which the dominant and pervasive colour created the atmosphere. The blood red rooms in Cries and Whispers (Viskningar och rop, 1973), in which the women of the film are in stark contrast in their white and black turn-of-the-century clothes, made visual film history.
Vos was equally at home creating barrenness, as in her set designs for Bergman’s The Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen, 1968), and character, as in Gunnel Lindblom’s Eastern European-tinged role in The Silence (Tystnaden, Bergman, 1963).
In 1984 her career was crowned with an Oscar for the costume design of Fanny and Alexander (Fanny och Alexander, Bergman, 1982). For her, the film was an arduous, exciting and enjoyable task, which she colourfully describes in her book “Dräkterna i dramat – mitt år med Fanny och Alexander” (“Costumes in the Drama – My Year with Fanny and Alexander”).
Her guiding principle while working on this mammoth project, requiring 250 costumes in everything from homespun to silk, was Bergman’s directive to imagine things from a child’s perspective. In contrast with Anna Asp’s detail-rich set designs, Vos allowed the clothes to appear pared-down and not slavishly typical of their historical period. She wanted to create the film’s own reality, not to recreate an authentic version of the past. Vos regarded costume design and set design both as an autonomous art form and something that should work in symbiosis with the script and the actors. Her contribution to the film was to make concrete the director’s visions and to integrate her own vision into it.
Just like Bergman she had a longstanding love of the island of Gotland, and in the 1980s she left Stockholm and moved to Vamlingbo, where she became involved with Suderlamm, an ecological project that included wool production and environmental protection and which created employment opportunities for local women. For her own part, she designed sweaters.
As a film and theatre worker in the wings, Marik Vos rarely put herself centre stage, maintaining her humility even after her major artistic triumphs. She put her Oscar statuette on a shelf of her corner stove. But she made sure it was well turned out in a knitted woollen jumper and hat!
Louise Lagerström (2012)
(translated by Derek Jones)
Main profession: Other profession
Viskningar och rop (1973)
En och en (1978)
Nils Holgerssons underbara resa (1962)
Fanny och Alexander (1982)
Fanny och Alexander (1983)
Viskningar och rop (1973)
Vi två (1939)
Dräkterna i dramat – Mitt år med “Fanny och Alexander” av Marik Vos, Norstedts (1984)
Academy Award of Merit (Oscar) (bästa kostym 1983/Best Costume Design 1983) (1984-04-09) för Fanny och Alexander (1982)
Academy Award-nominering (bästa kostym 1960/Best Costume Design, Black-and-White 1960) (1961-02) för Jungfrukällan (1960)