I've been a Bergman fan since I saw Seventh Seal 20 years ago. It was a stark, brilliant film and despite being 40 years old, felt very modern to me.
I saw Through a Glass Darkly a year or two ago. I did not find it very compelling or even interesting. But my film/ literary deconstruction skills are rusty, and I've gotten quite lazy in my viewing habits. All but the most obvious points sail past me.
Some kind member here suggested I continue with Bergman's "god" trilogy, and watch Winter Light and The Silence. I tried to see who, but the search function did not find it.
I watched Winter Light last night. I found it a little slow half way through (at Marta's letter), but by the end I was trying to put it all together - themes, motivations. It definitely grappled with the ideas of god, belief and faith, but it struck me as being less about any of those things than it was about relationships and isolation. It seemed to take god's absence as a given, not a question, and work from there. Bergman seemed to be asking, since there is no god, now what? How do we put anything into perspective? He seemed to find a godless universe stark and bitter.
The Pastor - Tomas
- had lost his wife and his faith. That was clearly drawing a connection between god and love, and he did say at one point God is love, love is god. If love and god are one, other people were the vehicle to finding god. Relationships were the way to salvation and isolation was hell. And everyone in the film was isolated. None of the relationships were happy or without an ugly side.
Tomas had carried on a relationship with Marta for two years, but she was not particularly nice to him and he was revolted by her. Algot seeks friendship with Tomas, but Tomas appears to detest him. Jonas and his wife may have a decent relationship but for his depression and suicidal thoughts. And so it goes.
I could not figure out what the title "Winter Light" had to do with the film's themes. Was the light a reference to love? It was winter in the story. The light in Sweden in winter is brief - it showed darkness at 3:00pm in the film - and even on a clear day, the light does not help warm you. One of the characters - Jonas - had a family that loved him, but even still he could not find "warmth" or a reason to live. In fact, everyone who reached out was rejected in some way by the ones they reached out to, and in turn rejected those who reached out to them. Everyone wanted love, but no one was willing to accept it.
I read that the original title in Swedish was The Communicants. That made a lot more sense to me. The only characters were the paltry congregants of a fading church who receive communion in the opening scenes. But it also refers to communication. Either way you view it you find the negative. The congregants all sit apart. The Pastor mistreats Marta. Marta's love also comes with sharp criticism. When Jonas comes to Tomas for help, Tomas can only talk about himself. Tomas finds Algot detestable in some way (perhaps for his ability to maintain absolute faith).
They all fail to communicate, except possibly Algot, who succinctly describes torture as being let down by those you love. He uses the passion of christ as his context. He pointed out that jesus' torture physically only lasted about 4 hours. He suggested his own physical pain and suffering - he was a hunchback - was probably much worse and over a much longer time. But the emotional torture - being abandoned by his disciples - was the real torture. And being abandoned by god while on the cross was the worst. He quoted Matt 27:46. I took this as him innocently and unintentionally underscoring Tomas' isolation and despair. Following that, the film ends as Tomas begins the mass for his congregation of two - Marta and Algot, both of whom he despises - it being the only connection he has to anyone, his only way to godless salvation.
Anyone else who has seen this film, please add your insight.