Ingmar Bergman was arguably the most acclaimed and accomplished filmmaker of his generation; his best work (such as Persona, Scenes from a Marriage, Cries and Whispers and Wild Strawberries) changed the rules in how human emotion was portrayed on screen, and his elegant but powerful visual style, his poet's sense of rhythm and his gift for drawing remarkable performances from his actors influenced dozens of notable filmmakers. However, while Bergman's work came to the attention of American audiences in the mid-Fifties when films such as The Seventh Seal and Smiles of a Summer Night began playing art houses in the U.S., he'd been making movies since 1946, and many titles from his first decade as a director have been all but impossible for North American film enthusiasts to see. The Criterion Collection, America's most prestigious home video company, have launched their new Eclipse line (a collection of multi-disc sets featuring lesser-known works from important filmmakers) with Early Bergman, a set of five titles from the master which have been little-seen in the United States -- 1944's Hets (aka Torment), directed by Alf Sjoberg from Bergman's screenplay (his first to be brought to the screen) and 1946's Kris (aka Crisis), 1948's Hamnstad (aka Port Of Call), 1949's Torst (aka Thirst) and 1949's Till Gladje (aka To Joy), four of Bergman's earliest directorial assignments. As cinema, these five films are fascinating and rewarding stuff; Alf Sjoberg's bolder visual style sets Torment apart from the others four features, but it shows Bergman's dominant themes of fractured emotional interaction and inner turmoil were already firmly in place, while the other four pictures reveal how quickly Bergman's very distinctive approach began to manifest itself, and Thirst and To Joy are compelling thumbnail sketches of notions Bergman would explore with greater depth in later films. As a DVD presentation, while this set lacks the bells and whistles that are so much a part of Criterion's best known releases, the debut Eclipse set is quietly impressive. All five films have been transferred to disc in their original full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and while the source materials show occasional flaws on Torment and Crisis, the transfers themselves are splendid, capturing a rich spectrum of gray tones and accurately reflecting the original look of these movies. The audio for all five films has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono, and sounds as good as the vintage of the masters permits. Each film is presented in its original Swedish, with optional English subtitles. No bonus materials are included on these discs (though each case features a short essay on the film in question), which Eclipse cites as an effort to keep these sets affordable, but despite the relative austerity of this package, the presentation has been assembled with obvious care and these films are essential viewing for anyone interested in Bergman's career or classic International filmmaking of the 1940's; this is bold and brilliant work, and Criterion are to be thanked for making it accessible to American film fans.