Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Through a Glass Darkly

Year: 1961
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman
Starring Harriet Andersson, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Max von Sydow, Lars Passgard
Running Time: 89 minutes
Genre: Drama

Summary: A family of four spend their summer vacation on a remote island. Karin (Andersson) suffers from schizophrenia and has recently come out of a mental hospital. Her loving husband, Martin (Sydow) is unable to understand what is happening to her. Her father, David (Bjornstrand), a second-rate but successful novelist, is more wrapped up in his own problems. Her emotional seventeen year old brother Minus (Passgard) is the only one Karin can confide in, and he is severely out of his depth.
Sneaking a look at her father's diary, Karin discovers that her condition is incurable and that David, while sympathetic, is interested in studying the effects of the illness on her as it worsens. Feeling isolated from bother her husband and her father, and racked with guilt about her increasingly disturnbing closeness to Minus, Karin's mental state quickly deteriorates and her hallucinations become increasingly severe, as her grip on reality begins to shatter.

Opinions: This is the first of Bergman's loose "Faith Trilogy" which continued with Winter Light (1962) and concluded with The Silence (1963). This bleak and austere drama helped to seal Bergman's reputation as the master of Scandinavian gloom. However there is humour there and also some of the frequently overlooked warmth that was often present in Bergman.
Shot on the Swedish island of Faro, this is beautifully photgraphed in crisp black and white by regular Bergman cinematographer Sven Nykvist and features some superb perfomances from it's small cast (there are only four characters in the entire film) most of whom were also Bergman regulars. Harriet Andersson especially delivers a stunning perfomance in the lead role.
The film's downbeat nature certainly won't appeal to all viewers, but it is a must see for Bergman fans and is worth seeing anyway as a major work from one of the masters of cinema. Also despite the gloom it concludes with a faint glimmer of optimism. it is fair to say that you probably won't have a lot of fun with this film, but then it is not intended as entertainment, it is a piece of art.
The title refers to a passage in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13) which states that while we are alive we see God and God's plans as "through a glass, darkly" but it will all become clear after we die.

"It's so horrible to see your own confusion and understand it."
- Karin (Harriet Andersson) in Through a Glass Darkly

Max von Sydow, Harriet Andersson and Gunnar Bjornstrand in Through a Glass Darkly

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