Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Max von Sydow, Gunnel Lindblom
Running Time: 81 minutes
Summary: In a small Swedish town, Tomas Ericsson (Bjornstrand) is the local pastor. However, he has almost completely lost his faith, and merely goes through the motions of his profession. Atheist schoolteacher Marta (Thulin) loves him, however Tomas treats her with complete indifference or downright hostility. When one of his parishoners, fisherman Jonas (Sydow) comes to him for help due to his overwhelming fear of nuclear war, Tomas tries to help him, and offer some words of comfort. However, immediately after leaving him, Jonas kills himself, which causes Tomas to sink even further into existential depsair.
Opinons: This film (also sometimes known as The Communicants) is widely considered the middle part of director Ingmar Bergman's "Trilogy of Faith" which began with Through a Glass Darkly (1961) and concluded with The Silence (1963), which deal with spiritual matters, in particular the "silence of God" which was a recurring theme in Bergman's work. Bergman wrote "These three films deal with reduction. Through a Glass Darkly - conquered certainty. Winter Light - penetrated certainty. The Silence - God's silence - the negative imprint. Therefore, they constitute a trilogy."
This is one of Bergman's most autobiographical and personal films. He claimed that he "only realised who he really was" and came to terms with himself through the making of this film. Bergman's father was a pastor similar to the one in the film and Bergman struggled deeply with religious questions.
It tends to be one of Bergman's most overlooked films, which may be due to the film's frustratingly elliptical structure as well as the sheer bleakness and misery of it. Through a Glass Darkly offered a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel, but there is no such glimmer here.
The film is beautiful to look at, photographed in luminous monochrome by regular Bergman cinematographer Sven Nykvist, and features some startling performances from all concerned. Bjornstrand gives a haunted performance as a tormented man who has lost all belief and faith in his vocation, and is merley clocking in every day and going through the motions like a bored and disillusioned office worker, unfortunately his job is to console others at their lowest points, and there is nothing to console him. The one glimmer of hope offered to him, the love of Ingrid Thulin's Marta, he angrily rejects at every turn. Thulin turns in an intense perfomance and her heart-rending long monologue delivered staright to camera is genuinely uncomfortable to watch.
This is a bleak and merciless drama, which is definitely worth checking out, although definitely not if you're in the mood for some cheering up. You'll also probably want to stay away from sharp objects for an hour or two after you've seen it.
"Surely that must have been his greatest hardship? God's silence."
- Algot Frovik (Allan Edwall) in Winter Light
Gunnar Bjornstrand and Ingrid Thulin in Winter Light