Monday, April 16, 2012

Through a Glass Darkly

Såsom i en spegel; drama, Sweden, 1961; D: Ingmar Bergman, S: Harriet Andersson, Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Lars Passgaard

24 hours in the life of four people residing on a beach: Karin and her husband Martin visit her father, the mediocre writer David, and younger brother Minus. All of them are tormented by life: David questions God's existence and his own talent; the young Minus feels isolated and lonely since all the girls are avoiding him; Martin is anguished by Karin deteriorating mental health. At one point, she tells them about her visions of God who is talking to her through the wall. Eventually, she has a vision of God in the form of a spider and is brought to a hospital. Still, David manages to give Minus some optimism about life and faith.

Winner of an Oscar for best foreign language film and nominated for best screenplay, "Through a Glass Darkly" is another existentialist and serious-pessimistic Ingmar Bergman film where he gives a good impression of tormented people "living under their possibilities" despite material wealth, whereas the uncomfortable clash between their personalities is heightened by an almost 'kammerspiel' mood in a story reduced to only four protagonists. The first part of his unofficial trilogy about religion - the other two being "Winter Light" and "Silence" - "Glass" established the sea near the cold Swedish shore as Bergman's trademark exterior ambiance (its grey-cold appearance is symbolic for his character's despair and alienation) and pointed out to an unusual religious paradox: the protagonists are tormented by God's absence, but when Karin announces that she has visions of God talking to her, she is labelled mentally ill - in any way, religion in such form is doomed in Bergman's view. In an interesting structure of the dramaturgy, David and Minus are depressed already at the start of the story, while Karin is the only character who can be considered "happy", but towards the end David and Minus find some comfort, while Karin's state collapses. A quality, but grey-monolith drama too much burdened by babble that is only partially inspired ("The proof for God is love." - "A particular kind of love, I suppose?" - "Any kind of love. From the most sophisticated to the most primitive. From the most elevated to the most silly. Just as long it is love").


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