Winter Light (1963) Ingmar Bergman


Marta Lundberg, an atheist local school teacher sits and laments at the church pew because she is deeply in love with a pastor whose faith in God, himself and Marta is dwindling into an existential nothingness. At the point of her absolute utter despair she is confronted by Satan who takes on the appearance of the church organist. This is her Garden of Gethsemane.

Welcome to Life on Earth.

I found this film mesmerizing. From the very first scene, I was pulled into this melancholic, thought provoking tour de force of art-house cinema. It is deftly directed with such sublime sensibility and intimacy. The realism is extraordinary; few if any other movies I have seen are so authentically delivered. Like many of Bergman’s movies, ‘Winter Light’ challenges us to reflect on our own lives, our very existence, essentially what it means ‘to be’.

Many reviews remark how it is steeped in connotations of religion, but I found its themes closer resembling aspects of ‘Faith’. Not just faith in God, but faith in oneself, faith in one’s partner, faith in what it means to be human. For me, it didn’t require multiple viewings to fully appreciate this Tower of Movie. I got why Bergman said: “I think I have made just one picture that I really like, and that is Winter Light…Everything is exactly as I wanted to have it, in every second of this picture.” – Ingmar Bergman from Ingmar Bergman Directs by John Simon 1972.

Despite arriving at this movie without any prior knowledge whatsoever, except that it was Bergman, as the last scene faded to black an awe of respect made me laugh as I stood from the armchair of this Bergman ride from a theme park like no other. To my mind, this isn’t a movie, its best described as a vision, a vision so pure and finessed to screen that its almost like walking into someone else’s dream, but by the last act you realize it could be more akin to your subconscious, because really this vision has been imparted to you.

The plot, multilayered symbolism and striking metaphors to the events of ‘The Passion of Christ’ and human suffering (Christians and atheists alike) could be discussed at infinite length, but I’ll leave that to the ‘movielogians’ rather than influence the mind set of someone who may intend on watching this movie. Bring all your baggage to this movie and see how it effects you without preconceived notions of the story or plot. If you revel in films that are challenging, thought-provoking and stimulating you might also find yourself living in this movie. See this film.

Ingmar Bergman’s “Winter Light,” ……. is the second installment in a film trilogy, preceded by “Through a Glass Darkly” and followed by “The Silence.” This association was not intentional when Bergman made “Winter Light.” Instead, the coda of “Through a Glass Darkly,” “God is Love and Love is God,” forms the nucleus from which he developed the central theme of “Winter Light. ” The films of the trilogy are laid out like pieces of chamber music.

ImageIngmar Bergman on Winter Light:

‘The film is closely connected with a particular piece of music: Stravinski’s A Psalm Symphony. I heard it on the radio one morning during Easter, and it struck me I’d like to make a film about a solitary church on the plains of Uppland. Someone goes into the church, locks himself in, goes up to the altar, and says: ‘God, I’m staying here until in one way or another You’ve proved to me You exist. This is going to be the end either of You or of me!’ Originally the film was to have been about the days and nights lived through by this solitary person in the locked church, getting hungrier and hungrier, thirstier and thirstier, more and more expectant, more and more filled with his own experiences, his visions, his dreams, mixing up dream and reality, while he’s involved in this strange, shadowy wrestling match with God.
We were staying out on Toro, in the Stockholm archipelago. It was the first summer I’d had the sea all around me. I wandered about on the shore and went indoors and wrote, and went out again. The drama turned into something else; into something altogether tangible, something perfectly real, elementary and self-evident.
The film is based on something I’d actually experienced. Something a clergyman up in Dalarna told me: the story of the suicide, the fisherman Persson. One day the clergyman had tried to talk to him; the next, Persson had hanged himself. For the clergyman it was a personal catastrophe.’

Related articles:
1. Winter Light – Ingmar Bergman (1963)
2. Ingmar Bergman’s “Winter Light”: An Analyses of Bergman’s Faith
3. Mandy – An art-house supernatural horror trip
4. Roma – A Latino Cinematic Masterpiece (2018)

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Movies and TV

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