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The 2010 Glen Workshop In Santa Fe, NM

Through a Glass Darkly
Movie Poster for Carl Theodor Dreyer's Ordet
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Produced by Allan Ekelund
Written by Ingmar Bergman
Music by Erik Nordgren
Cinematography by Sven Nykvist
Editing by Ulla Ryghe
Release Date 1961
Running Time 89 min.
Language Swedish
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Through a Glass Darkly
(Såsom i en spegel)

Deriving its title from the apostle Paul’s description of the human experience of the divine, Through a Glass Darkly explores the tension between the tragedy present in human existence and the hope for grace. When a girl succumbs to schizophrenia, her father returns home to meet with her husband and brother. The meeting and the tragic circumstances that led to it forces the family to reckon with their own individual failings and God’s excruciating silence. 

Ingmar Bergman renders Through a Glass Darkly in chilly black-and-white, often focusing on the vastness of the landscape, or the ever-distant line of the horizon. Everywhere shadow overwhelms light. Characters speak in weighty tones; the scant warmth they offer one other frequently disguises their inner confusion and guilt. The outside world scarcely seems to exist for these individuals; the only time in which it intrudes is through an intimidating, shadowy helicopter. Every scene carries with it an air of heaviness and exhaustion. 

These characters are alienated from the world and from one another. They are perplexed by life’s cruelty, and respond to that cruelty in ways that make them deeply ashamed and repulsed. Only in the film’s final moments does the film offer hope of reconciliation. Following all this tragedy, a father takes the slightest step towards healing with his son, suggesting that love may indeed exist in a bleak world. But this fleeting moment, however hopeful, cannot overwhelm the great, deep sob to which the rest of the film gives a voice. In Through a Glass Darkly, despair, not hope, reigns in the human soul. 

—Ryan Holt

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