Friday, December 18, 2009

1962 - WINTER LIGHT Ingmar Bergman's film of a Lutheran pastor's crisis of faith

Probably around the late 1960's or early 1970's Ingmar Bergman turned into kind of a film joke.  His films were showing repetition in the themes and the emotional crisis his characters tended to find themselves in.  Ingmar Bergman had come to represent a parody of a certain type of dour Swedish film.

But when Bergman was in control of his material most filmmakers couldn't come close to telling a serious story like he could.

Winter Light was the second film in his "trilogy of faith."  In a period of a few hours, a Lutheran minister suffering from the flu,  questions his profession, his belief in the lack of God's existence and inadvertently contributes to the suicide of one of his parishioners.  Pretty heavy stuff for an 80 minute film.

But, Bergman has carefully worked out his story and the emotional peaks and lows of the story do not contain any of the obscurity and tiresomeness of his later films. Winter Light is not really a film questioning God's existence. It is a character study about one man's inability to reach out emotionally.  Tomas Ericsson,  the pastor of the small church is a complicated character who's doubt and anger regarding the existence of God may possibly be an excuse to deal with his failure as a human being.  Questioning his belief in God allows him to ignore his own failings.


The acting is at an extremely high quality and technically the film is very well made.  For a film with a very small cast and and using a small country church as the main setting, the film, is very well staged and directed.  Sven Nyquist photographed the film in black and white with the light and compositions carefully worked out.

The overused word masterpiece can be applied to Winter Light.

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