Through a Glass Darkly (1961)

Through a Glass Darkly (Såsom i en spegel)
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Written by Ingmar Bergman
1961/Sweden
Svensk Filmindustri
First viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Karin: It’s so horrible to see your own confusion and understand it.

In Bergman’s first “chamber” film, a small cast and confined setting are enough to powerfully express a master’s vision.

As the film begins, we are dropped into what looks like an idyllic family summer holiday on an island in the Swedish Archipelago  The family consists of Karin (Harriet Andersson), her husband Martin, and her brother Minus.  Karin and Minus’s father David (Gunnar Bjornstrand) is visiting after spending several months in Switzerland working on a novel. Clearly, all love each other a lot.

Soon it appears that there is trouble in paradise.  Karin has been ill and Martin tells David that her condition may be incurable.  Minus is in an awkward teenage phase.  Both children yearn for more affection from their rather distant father.

Gradually we learn that Karin’s illness is mental.  She apparently has schizophrenia and when ill has hallucinations and hears voices instructing her.  She is somewhat better now but no longer feels desire for Martin.  Unspoken tensions within the summer household have her heading for relapse.

Karin’s hallucinations involve a group of benevolent people who are waiting for God to appear.  As Karin drifts farther and farther from reality, a visitation seems imminent.  In the meantime, the family struggles to cope.

We haven’t got into the Liv Ullman years yet but so far Harriet Andersson is my favorite Bergman actress.  She is fantastic in this film.  Both her suffering and her ecstasy are palpable.  This is a profound film and I feel like I need to see it again to comprehend everything.  The themes reach from the nature and existence of God to the nature and existence of reality.  Recommended.

Through a Glass Darkly won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.  It was nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.

American trailer

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