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Darryl A. Armstrong

Bergman's "Faith Trilogy"

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The background of thought process heading into the making of Winter Light is fascinating. Plunging into Bergman's mind during this period is rich with thoughts on his art, God, religion and security. The following is taken directly from Vilgot Sjöman's Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie (1963). Hearing Bergman on himself is so good, I felt I just had to share.

Sjöman: Your films are usually connected. Can you say how this film is connected to others you've made?

Bergman: In theme, it's connected to, for instance, Through a Glass Darkly, and to The Virgin Spring. But also through the structure, the format of a chamber play. I have always felt The Virgin Spring is a form of chamber music. It's even in three movements, and it's very limited in the number of actors, and so on. As for theme, all three films deal with changes in the image of God.

Sjöman: What can you say about that?

Bergman: Though it's very complicated, I will try, though I'm not sure I can. In my earlier works I always left the issue open --

Sjöman: What issue?

Bergman: The existence of God. In The Virgin Spring, I let God answer in the form of a ballad, as the spring begins to flow. For me that was a timid way of closing in on the issue, and setting forth my own views on the reality of God. In Through a Glass Darkly, it is even more clearly visible. The gist of it, and the credo behind it, is that God is love and love is God. The proof of God is in the existence of love as something very concrete in the human world. And then you know, which is the eerie part, I've taken on this whole problem in Winter Light. To be forced to tear apart this whole idea of God, which is a search for security. Now I've tried to find one that is even broader -- a more distinct and clear idea of God.

Sjöman: Why did you have tio tear apart the idea of God from Through a Glass Darkly?

Bergman: Well, think about it. It's obvious why. Here's this fisherman with his fear of the Chinese and their latent thread of war. It's hard to tell a man sitting in front of you, "Stop worrying about the Chinese, because God is love." Or: "You should go on feeling secure, because love is what matters." It does exist in the world, you know, in a very real way.

Sjöman: Would you say that the idea of God is rather narrow, that it's based only on security?

Bergman: Yes, I think so. I have felt that more and more.

Sjöman: Like the security of a child?

Bergman: Yes. I had to purge myself, and very painfully too, of that old idea of God, where God is the father. A father-son-like relationship. A God of one's own creation, a God of security. Deep down, this is what the film is about.

Sjöman: To state it simply, your first period of filmmaking was a rebellion against authorities and fathers of different kinds. Then there was a long series of reconciliations in Wild Strawberries and other films...

Bergman: (nods) yes...

Sjöman: ...Where you accepted the secure, fatherly image of God.

Bergman: Yes, it began there. That's how I had to do it. First revolution and rebellion against the father figure, and then acceptance. I could then calmly set it aside, and not project a paternal image onto God.

Sjöman: I understand you're very careful in this new film not to propose a new image of God?

Bergman: That's right. The drama and the passion don't take place in Tomas, the protagonist, but in the nonbeliever Märta, who carries in her the seed of a new image of God. She's the one who has the will and drive for life in her, and she passes them on to Tomas.

Sjöman: Sometimes you focus on religious themes in a series of movies, and then you make other kinds of movies. They seem to come in waves.

Bergman: Yes, they come in intervals.

Sjöman: Like with The Seventh Seal?

Bergman: I wrote my way out of my agony, this huge latent fear of death that I managed to purge. It's like the separation between the Knight and Jöns. The rationalist and the seeker. After that, the religious problem left me in peace for a long time.

Sjöman: So you managed to get rid of the fear of dying by writing about it?

Bergman: Either I did away with that fear through writing, or in the course of writing I discovered it was no longer so intrusive or threatening. The bottom line is it's gone.

Btw, right after this exchange it must be noted that Bergman kept three little initials written on the script as an "unusual secret" that he shared with Bach. The two artists both wrote the initials to the phrase, "To God Alone Be the Glory" on their works. The phrase comes from latin: "Soli Deo Gloria," -- or SDG. :)

Bergman said he felt that he, in some way, "Anonymously, objectively --" has "done this for the glory of God, and would like to give it to Him as it is."

Edited by Persona

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The background of thought process heading into the making of Winter Light is fascinating. Plunging into Bergman's mind during this period is rich with thoughts on his art, God, religion and security. The following is taken directly from Vilgot Sjöman's Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie (1963). Hearing Bergman on himself is so good, I felt I just had to share.

Sjöman: Your films are usually connected. Can you say how this film is connected to others you've made?

Bergman: In theme, it's connected to, for instance, Through a Glass Darkly, and to The Virgin Spring. But also through the structure, the format of a chamber play. I have always felt The Virgin Spring is a form of chamber music. It's even in three movements, and it's very limited in the number of actors, and so on. As for theme, all three films deal with changes in the image of God.

Sjöman: What can you say about that?

Bergman: Though it's very complicated, I will try, though I'm not sure I can. In my earlier works I always left the issue open --

Sjöman: What issue?

Bergman: The existence of God. In The Virgin Spring, I let God answer in the form of a ballad, as the spring begins to flow. For me that was a timid way of closing in on the issue, and setting forth my own views on the reality of God. In Through a Glass Darkly, it is even more clearly visible. The gist of it, and the credo behind it, is that God is love and love is God. The proof of God is in the existence of love as something very concrete in the human world. And then you know, which is the eerie part, I've taken on this whole problem in Winter Light. To be forced to tear apart this whole idea of God, which is a search for security. Now I've tried to find one that is even broader -- a more distinct and clear idea of God.

Sjöman: Why did you have tio tear apart the idea of God from Through a Glass Darkly?

Bergman: Well, think about it. It's obvious why. Here's this fisherman with his fear of the Chinese and their latent thread of war. It's hard to tell a man sitting in front of you, "Stop worrying about the Chinese, because God is love." Or: "You should go on feeling secure, because love is what matters." It does exist in the world, you know, in a very real way.

Sjöman: Would you say that the idea of God is rather narrow, that it's based only on security?

Bergman: Yes, I think so. I have felt that more and more.

Sjöman: Like the security of a child?

Bergman: Yes. I had to purge myself, and very painfully too, of that old idea of God, where God is the father. A father-son-like relationship. A God of one's own creation, a God of security. Deep down, this is what the film is about.

Sjöman: To state it simply, your first period of filmmaking was a rebellion against authorities and fathers of different kinds. Then there was a long series of reconciliations in Wild Strawberries and other films...

Bergman: (nods) yes...

Sjöman: ...Where you accepted the secure, fatherly image of God.

Bergman: Yes, it began there. That's how I had to do it. First revolution and rebellion against the father figure, and then acceptance. I could then calmly set it aside, and not project a paternal image onto God.

Sjöman: I understand you're very careful in this new film not to propose a new image of God?

Bergman: That's right. The drama and the passion don't take place in Tomas, the protagonist, but in the nonbeliever Märta, who carries in her the seed of a new image of God. She's the one who has the will and drive for life in her, and she passes them on to Tomas.

Sjöman: Sometimes you focus on religious themes in a series of movies, and then you make other kinds of movies. They seem to come in waves.

Bergman: Yes, they come in intervals.

Sjöman: Like with The Seventh Seal?

Bergman: I wrote my way out of my agony, this huge latent fear of death that I managed to purge. It's like the separation between the Knight and Jöns. The rationalist and the seeker. After that, the religious problem left me in peace for a long time.

Sjöman: So you managed to get rid of the fear of dying by writing about it?

Bergman: Either I did away with that fear through writing, or in the course of writing I discovered it was no longer so intrusive or threatening. The bottom line is it's gone.

Btw, right after this exchange it must be noted that Bergman kept three little initials written on the script as an "unusual secret" that he shared with Bach. The two artists both wrote the initials to the phrase, "To God Alone Be the Glory" on their works. The phrase comes from latin: "Soli Deo Gloria," -- or SDG. :)

Bergman said he felt that he, in some way, "Anonymously, objectively --" has "done this for the glory of God, and would like to give it to Him as it is."

Interestingly, at the very end of the Winter Light credits, Bergman did not sign off with Soli Deo Gloria (al la Bach) but with the the single Latin word Soli. Alone.

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Bergman: To be forced to tear apart this whole idea of God, which is a search for security ...

SSjöman: Would you say that the idea of God is rather narrow, that it's based only on security?

Bergman: Yes, I think so. I have felt that more and more.

Sjöman: Like the security of a child?

Bergman: Yes. ...

Sjöman: So you managed to get rid of the fear of dying by writing about it?

Bergman: Either I did away with that fear through writing, or in the course of writing I discovered it was no longer so intrusive or threatening. The bottom line is it's gone.

Interesting. I have to say it never occurred to me to think of God primarily in terms of "security." For me, the key thing has always been meaning.

I'm reminded of the quotation at the end of Criterion's commentary track for The Seventh Seal where Bergman says:

I was afraid of this enormous emptiness, but my personal view is that when we die, we die, and we go from a state of something to a state of absolute nothingness; and I don't believe for a second that there's anything above or beyond or anything like that; and this makes me enormously secure.

So ... Bergman rejected the idea of God as based on security -- and wound up embracing a materialist or naturalist anthropology ... which made him "enormously secure." Got it.

Btw, right after this exchange it must be noted that Bergman kept three little initials written on the script as an "unusual secret" that he shared with Bach. The two artists both wrote the initials to the phrase, "To God Alone Be the Glory" on their works. The phrase comes from latin: "Soli Deo Gloria," -- or SDG. :)

Handel too. It's part of the reason I identify so closely with my initials. (Also, as I've noted before, SDG is extraordinarily easy to type with a single motion of the fingers of the left hand in sequence: SDGSDGSDG. I'm always a bit bemused when someone addresses me as SGD. You have to go out of your way to do that.)

Interestingly, at the very end of the Winter Light credits, Bergman did not sign off with Soli Deo Gloria (al la Bach) but with the the single Latin word Soli. Alone.

Indeed!

Edited by SDG

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Just a note that late tonight all three films: Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence, are all playing on Turner Classic Movies, starting at 1:30 AM.

 

[Holds head down]: I've only seen one Ingmar Bergman movie... and only because I've heard _The Virgin Spring_ was the basis of many a contemporary slasher movie (Wes Craven's Last House on the Left, and it's remakes/imitators).

 

Reading the synopses on the A&F 100 has not encouraged me to take this leap: "Winter Light is one of the most spiritual movies ever made!"... and yet... "Despite the rare glimpses of hope, one is left with the harsh reality of the elements, giving the impression that this, along with hollow rituals, is all that there is."  ... say wha?

 

Can somebody hold my hand as to which of these three to start with?  Should I skip WL and S and go straight to TAGD?

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You don't have to watch the Faith Trilogy in order, but watching them chronologically shows a logical progression in terms of ambition and scope.  So, I'd recommend starting with Through a Glass Darkly.

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Thanks.  But it's all for naught.

 

TCM has pre-empted their schedule all day today (and late night tonight) to honor the late James Garner.

 

So this TCM premiere is not to be.  Ugh.

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Mike_tn said:  It is interesting and well made though the theme is dismal.

 

 

From Bergman?  Who woulda thunk it.

 

 

:We know how it ends later in life for Bergman, I read Bergman walked away from God fully at this film's making.

 

 

Could have been.  The interesting thing about Bergman is that he seems to have been somewhat of an agnostic who was continually wrestling with faith.  A lot of his films, including Winter Light have a spiritual longing to them, which is one of the reasons why they are so interesting to many Christians.  I thought Winter's Light was an excellent film and if I recall correctly I remember it did a great job of wrestling with faith and ultimately leaving the question up to the opinion of the viewer.  Oh, and the cinematograpy was gorgeous.

 

 

:and the pastor getting passionate with a woman by the alter while admitting non-belief and equating all of this to suddenly being free. (scratch my head). 

 

There are some agnostics and atheists who feel that they've found freedom in this, especially if they are coming out of the burden of an especially oppressive faith system.  I'd think that true freedom can be found in Christ, being walking further into an understanding of what God is really like and the grace and freedom therein.

Edited by Attica

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http://www.amazon.com/Bergman-Trilogy-Through-Criterion-Collection/dp/B0000A02TX/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1411539817&sr=1-1&keywords=winters+light+bergmanMike_tn said:  But this pastor would not accept any kind of evil fate that he must have known would sooner or later come to him in some severe form as it does to all of us but especially to God's anointed. The film opens with nearly no one attending his services, the people's faith was cold. God may have taken his wife as an example of what was coming to the people. The pastor should have been moved by his losses to sound the alarm but preferred to become ham-fisted. His problem was bigger than wrestling with faith, he wrestled to determine if he should ever exist in that arena. And since he was of mature years and well educated in theology, and anointed for ministry, it is as if he had full knowledge, like the angels at the beginning of time. Of all people, for clergy to walk away from God, profanes God's name all the more. Only God knows how many breaks such a person gets, not just for sinning, for quitting altogether.

 

 

-

 

I'm not quite sure how to respond to this as it's been long enough since I've seen the film that I can't remember enough of the details.  I can say that what your saying here seems to be largely coming from a Roman Catholic ethos or at least a perception of it (which I can somewhat grasp even if I'm not a RC) and if my memory serves the film and Bergman himself came from a Protestant viewpoint (or maybe better - post Protestant.)  So I'm not sure if the film is wrestling with many of your thoughts.  It is simply wrestling with the question of God's existence in light of the things we observe in the world and the sadness and fear that is in this world, if I remember correctly.  This is what Bergman wrestled with thoughout his life and career, at least as I understand it.  Of course we often place our own belief system on to a film in our ponderings and that isn't necessarily always a bad thing.

 

-

 

:There was no religious abuse to blame in the movie.

 

 

I meant more in the real world, in relation to your comment.  But I do think, if I remember right, that the film wrestles with the idea of faith being a burden because of some of the aspects of said faith.

 

 

: I've seen active alcoholics and atheists both harbor resentment regarding the faithfuls' idea that God allows suffering, even the suffering of innocents, for a good reason. It's a hatred due to one's shortsightedness.

 

 

The question of suffering and if God allows suffering is a big question.  I can see the idea of God allowing some sort of minor suffering, like hard work, some sickness ect. as being no huge hump to get over, but what about MAJOR evil and suffering. Lets say the holocaust, or the violation of a child which would eventually lead to drug abuse, a rejection of faith and then suicide (with the idea that God knew this would happen and allowed the suffering anyways.)  Or the idea of God allowing a Hurricane to destroy towns thus causing children to grow up in poverty and without guidance from their deceased parents, and thus potentially going down all sort of bad paths.  The fact of it is, that many of the stuff that happens or that God would "allow" can often lead to greater sin.

 

This is a major thing to be wrestled with.

 

I'm not sure if God "allows" some of the atrocities in the world as much as the fact that God has given dominion of the world to humanity (as mentioned in Genesis) and for God to be monkeying around too much with things would be "invading" without regard to the dominion that he has gifted us, and thus "illegal."  Of course God is constantly working to help set things right, but this is in collaboration with the work and prayers of humanity (when our consciences rise up against what is wrong and this in synergy with the Spirit speaking to us.)  In other words, I don't think God is in any way responsible for some of the extreme horrors that happen but is instead light without any darkness in him.  If God is the "giver of good gifts", then how can he also be the giver of bad "gifts?"  If he is the giver of good gifts then that means that all that he gives is good, sure it could be argued that some hardship is good, but what about EXTREME evil?  Thus suffering of humanity comes from natural phenomena (which is another point of discussion) and our misuse of the dominion God has given us, in my understanding.  "Thy Kingdom Come on earth as it is in heaven" is a prayer to bring God's reign into the earth.  In other words, in our dominion we invite God to bring his dominion into the earth because it isn't here before hand otherwise why would we need to pray the prayer?  God works in response to us when he is invited in, and thus doesn't invade in disregard for the dominion he has given us.  Of course, if God stands outside time then he knows *when* he will be invited in and his sovereignity can work in and around this.

 

Thus God can eventually work good out of darkness. 

 

Of course this is all a fairly quick expression of these concepts.  But suffice to say, the concept of suffering and some of the other issues this film wrestles with are important issues to be wrestled with and I'm thankful that the film does so and that Bergman has made some of these films, even if I have come to a different understanding and conclusion than he has, and wish that he and others with the same issues could come to a similar place.  I'm also thankful that he wasn't too heavy handed with his stance in the film if he was in the place of rejecting God, because, as I've said, the film left me with a fairly neutral stance (at least from what I can remember) leaving the viewer to consider and come to their own conclusions.

 

 

:I'd guess that I'd enjoy any Pre-WinterLight Bergmans for reasons you mention, the faith wrestling, the cinematography. Post-WinterLight Bergmans are now under suspicion along with Winter Light.

 

 

Winters light is part of a Trilogy of films that wrestles with similar issues.  I remember thinking that the other two were also fine films.

 

Another one to look up is Virgin Spring, some might perceive it as being too anti-Christian, but I'm not so sure about that.  It is certainly a film for thought.

Edited by Attica

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: Your link to the Trilogy at the top sitting on its own. Spooky spider cover. Maybe you were going to say something.

 

Nope.  I had nothing particular to say.  The spider is relevant though.

 

 

:The Virgin Spring I have access to this week along with a dozen others and will catch it per your recommend

 

Just so as you know.  The Virgin Spring has a disturbing rape scene in it.  It's not overly graphic, but it is what it is.

 

 

: I don't think I said anything that any mainstream Protestant would not relate to.

 

I grew up in the United Church of Canada (Liberal ended Protestantism) and then moved into charismatic evangelical circles.  Since I've had some involvement with Anglicanism and, of course have known people from various other denominations.  In all of these circles I haven't heard any expressed beliefs or conversations that would really align with what you've said.  I don't mean this as an attempt to be contentious.  Just sayin'

 

 

:I enjoy reading your descriptions of human suffering and God's part in it and our relationship. Very detailed and covering many facets. 

 

 

Thank you.  I could have gone into greater depth.  There's always greater depths, that's part of the Christian journey I'd expect.

 

 

:Nothing could possibly happen outside of his ability to effect it in any way he wanted because he created it out of nothing and so if anything ever happens he's aware of it and had to allow it to take place. 

 

 

I'd say that God created a world in which we could love.  In order to love we have to be able to choose not to love because without that choice how then can there truly be love.  So in that sense God has created a world wherby that choice is allowed.  Choosing not to love greives God of course, and an extreme lack of love is evil and leads to evil.  The holocause was an extreme evil coming from a lack of love and was allowed in the sense that God gave them the ability to make those choices.  I don't believe that it was allowed in the sense that God was overlooking it saying "I'll allow this for my purposes."  There's still a darkness to that, which I believe is incompatible with the light that is Christ.  It happened because at various times people failed to stop it.  God works in a synergy with humanity.  God works in response to our prayers, but Holy Spirit is also prompting us to pray, if only we'd listen.  Eventually, of course, humanities conscience in general rose up against the Nazi regime and it was brought down to the dust.  I believe it was a collaboration of humanity and God divinely working in interaction with people's prayers.

 

But here's an interesting point to the whole holocaust thing.  Since this happened there has been a growing understanding of, and respect for, the Jewish people (at least in the western world) that largely had not existed in the previous 2,000 years of Christianity.  To me this is a sign of light coming out of what was a great darkness.

 

I know a person who suffered extreme child abuse.  He thought that God had allowed it to happen.  One time when I was praying for him I sense Holy Spirit touching on me with "it happened because no one stopped it."  I don't believe that it was allowed.  I believe that God was their greiving.  Not that God is weak of course, but that it would be against God's character to violate the dominion he has given us in an "illegal" way according to the system that he has created, this system which is in place in order that love can be possible.  I don't believe that God can act outside of his character.  Wouldn't he then cease to be God (himself)?  Which is of course impossible.

 

 

:To repeat, God had to allow that nasty part in quotes there if he fits the job description we give him. 

 

 

But that would mean that God had chosen to not stop something that was in actuality to be against his "purposing desire" for that person when he could have.  It's problematic.

 

 

:I guess I don't see why the degree of the evil makes a difference for you.

 

 

It wasn't as much about the degree of evil as it is an attempt to convey a point.  Saying that God allows some sort of suffering, like in the sense of general hardships that will strengthen our character can probably be acceptable, if it's to a degree.  Saying that God allows extreme evil is problematic because of what it would say about God's character, or more importantly, it is in disagreement with what Christ has shown us and has told us about God's character.

 

 

:One atom of impurity will separate man and God. 

 

I don't actually believe that mankind is separate from God under the Augustinian "original sin" viewpoint.   In Paul's writings he says that we become separate from God in our understanding.  The wording is significant, because of sin people come to believe that they are separate from God.  God isn't separate from them.  In fact, Jesus, being the FULL representation of God, came to earth to be around sinners.  To be a friend of sinners.  He wasn't separate from them, he was hanging out with them.  If "sinners" are completely separate from God, then how would Holy Spirit be able to work in their lives to convict them of their sins and draw them into better understanding?  Doing so would not be "separate."  How can there be separation at the same time that there is a communication and interaction whereby Holy Spirit is there and present with the person?

 

But this gets back to your earlier post.  I believe that that pastor in the movie, or for that matter people in life in general, have slipped away from God in their understanding.  God is pursuing them to bring them back to a good place in their minds and hearts.  That's how grace works.  As they say, "the hound of heaven."  I don't believe that there is a time when the "second chances" end.  Grace never ends and is always working to bring people back (surely not in times or ways that we can always understand.)  The Bible says that "love never gives up in it's trying" (a better translation of "love never fails.").  God IS love, full stop.

 

 

:Atheists will think it aptly describes and even validates their position

 

 

Possibly.  That's not how I perceived the film.  Again, we tend to view a film through the lense through which we already have.  I thought the film wrestled with the issues in a way that ended with the conclusions open to interpretation. Which, in this particular case, was just fine.  IMO.

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I just saw Through a Glass Darkly over the weekend and I am stunned at how powerful such a very simple story could be.  This is a film about four people sitting around talking, and it might be one of the most devastating films I've seen.  I am reluctant to say much more until I've had time to absorb it for a while.  What a careful and serious exploration as to our relation to and our hopes for God.  It wasn't until I saw this that it hit me how important this theme is to Bergman.  I suppose I knew it generally, but in order to make a film like this, he must have cared very deeply about it.  Also, this would have been an entirely different film if it had ended with the frightened Karin's view of God rather than with the father's proof for the existence of God.  How different the two views are and what a way to contrast them.

 

This counts as my first film of the "faith trilogy," but, after reading over this thread, I've haven't been able to find anyone questioning whether it really is a trilogy.  Didn't Bergmann later deny that this was a trilogy?

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Ingmar Bergman, Images: My Life In Film, 1994, pgs. 244-245:

... In Vilgot Sjoman’s book about Winter Light, entitled Diary with Ingmar Bergman, there is a discussion that hints at a connection between The Virgin Spring and Through a Glass Darkly.  He wrote that I had planned Winter Light as the last part of a trilogy that began with The Virgin Spring and Through a Glass Darkly.

Today I see this view as a rationalization created after the fact.  I tend to look sceptically at the whole trilogy concept.  It was born during my conversations with Sjoman and was fortified when the screenplays for Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence were published together in a book.  With Vilgot’s help I wrote an introductory note that explained:

“These three films deal with reduction.  THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY - conquered certainty.  WINTER LIGHT - penetrated certainty.  THE SILENCE - God’s silence - the negative imprint.  Therefore, they constitute a trilogy.”

This note was written in May 1963.  Today I feel that the “trilogy” has neither rhyme nor reason.  It was a Schnaps-Idee, as the Bavarians say, meaning that it’s an idea found at the bottom of a glass of alcohol, not always holding up when examined in the sober light of day ...

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Here's an Emily Dickinson poem that reminds me a lot of Bergman's Winter Light.  Read the poem, “[There's a certain Slant of light, Winter Afternoons],” at the end of the post. Pretty much every line contains some image, event, theme, emotion, and/or struggle that seems right out of the film! Honestly, if this poem were made into a film (almost exactly 100 years after it was written and at about 15 degrees more northerly latitude), it would be Winter Light!

Dickinson was much more of a believer, albeit an unorthodox one, than Bergman, but the two share many themes regarding struggles with the figure of a distant God, with belief and doubt in an age that rejects God (or “God”), and with psychological disturbance.

 

There's a certain Slant of light,

Winter Afternoons –

That oppresses, like the Heft

Of Cathedral Tunes –

 

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –

We can find no scar,

But internal difference –

Where the Meanings, are –

 

None may teach it – Any –

'Tis the seal Despair –

An imperial affliction

Sent us of the Air –

 

When it comes, the Landscape listens –

Shadows – hold their breath –

When it goes, 'tis like the Distance

On the look of Death –

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On 10/14/2014 at 10:56 PM, J.A.A. Purves said:

I just saw Through a Glass Darkly over the weekend and I am stunned at how powerful such a very simple story could be.  This is a film about four people sitting around talking, and it might be one of the most devastating films I've seen.  I am reluctant to say much more until I've had time to absorb it for a while.  What a careful and serious exploration as to our relation to and our hopes for God.  It wasn't until I saw this that it hit me how important this theme is to Bergman.  I suppose I knew it generally, but in order to make a film like this, he must have cared very deeply about it.  Also, this would have been an entirely different film if it had ended with the frightened Karin's view of God rather than with the father's proof for the existence of God.  How different the two views are and what a way to contrast them.

I'm so grateful that we have such a treasure trove of posts and threads like this at A and F. I can see how much this group has influenced me that I can actually watch a weight-of-the-world film like Through a Glass Darkly in the late hours of the night and then be willing to lose even more sleep in order to read a thread like this. 

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I would love to keep this thread bumped here, because films like these are the stuff of deeply stimulating discussions on arts and faith.

Following on the thoughts I had after reading JAA Purves's post above, especially the part about Through a Glass Darkly as a "careful and serious exploration as to our relation to and our hopes for God."  Jeremy highlights in that post the contrast between the 2 final scenes, one of the frightened Karin's view of God and one of the father giving his reasoning in support of the existence of God. 

It occurs to me that the father himself could be seen as a possible view or representation of God, perhaps one that Bergman was turning over in his mind.  Consider these ways in which Bergman could be contemplating that idea: (Possible spoilers to come.)

1.      The father is a writer, an artist who creates. 

2.      However, the father is easily angered and sensitive about his power to create.  Could Bergman be positing this as a parallel to God’s wrath?

3.      Though the father wants to please people with what he creates, he is often considered distant and aloof by those who want to be close to him.

4.      Many, such as Martin, think that the father’s literary works are a sham.

5.      The view of the father only becomes positive in the final scenes when he makes some efforts to connect to (in the ship) his daughter and, in the final scene, his son.  In fact, the father himself gives the sole encouraging words in the movie about why it is possible to believe in God. 

So it is conceivable that this complicated father character is an alternate vision of God set against the frightening vision that Karin has near the end of the film.  Things get even deeper when you consider Karin’s vision layered on top of the vision of the father as a God figure.  Perhaps we have here the concept of God (in Karin’s view) as a frightening invader who you want to flee from in juxtaposition with the concept of God (represented by the father) as a relational being who most often seems distant but, in the crucible, offers guarded hope. 

Other thought:

The event in the ship between Minus and Karin reminds me very much of the dynamics between Quentin and his sister in Faulkner’s novel The Sound and the Fury.  The contrast between the end of this film and the outcome of the Quentin episode in that novel, however, is quite striking.  As dark and dreadful as much of the Bergman film is, the final scene offers a good deal more hope for the future to Minus than the Faulkner novel does to Quentin. 

Edited by Brian D

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