Winter Light (1963)

Winter Light (Nattvardsgästerna)
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Written by Ingmar Bergman
1963/Sweden
Svensk Filmindustri
First viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Märta Lundberg, Schoolteacher: God, why have you created me so eternally dissatisfied? So frightened, so bitter? Why must I realize how wretched I am? Why must I suffer so hellishly for my insignificance? If there is a purpose to my suffering, then tell me, so I can bear my pain without complaint. I’m strong. You made me so very strong in both body and soul, but you never give me a task worthy of my strength. Give my life meaning, and I’ll be your obedient slave.

This is almost too hopeless to bear despite its beauty.

Pastor Tomas Ericsson (Gunnar Bjornstrand) is plagued by both a bad cold and a crisis of faith on the same Sunday.  His church services are almost empty.  Among the faithful are Jonas Persson (Max von Sydow) and his wife Karin (Gunnel Lindblom).  Jonas is suicidally depressed by his fear of nuclear war.  Instead of comfort, Tomas provides him with a long monologue on his own religious doubts.

Simultaneously, Tomas’s atheist girlfriend Marta (Ingrid Thulin) tries to comfort him.  She badly wants to marry him.  On this Sunday she brings matters to a head and will regret it.

I expected to feel pity for the preacher’s crisis of faith. Instead, I found him to be perfectly selfish.  His lack of piety seemed like a lack of humanity.  This is a bleak but beautiful film.  These depressing 1963 films are beginning to get on my nerves.

4 thoughts on “Winter Light (1963)

    • It seemed to me it did not take faith in God to show suffering people some human compassion. But maybe that was the point of the movie? Somehow I doubt it.

  1. That ending … I wasn’t sure I liked this movie for a while. How could anybody be that mean to Ingrid Thulin? But that ending changed my mind entirely. It’s brilliant. I’ve been wanting to see Winter Light again for quite a while.

    • Are you speaking about the Sexton’s speech about Christ’s suffering? I agree that was redemptive. Or was there something about the very end I missed because I was too busy being mad at Tomas?

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