The Usual Tears in a Bergman Film: “Winter Light”

In the Ingmar Bergman film Winter Light (1962), Gunnar Bjornstrand and Ingrid Thulin are thespians of the first order.  Bjornstrand is never false and always perfect in his timing as a suffering minister, Tomas Ericsson, who still grieves over the death of his cherished wife.  Thulin plays his former mistress who will never win Tomas’s love.  Put forward here is the concept of minister as nonbeliever, a man without faith.  “God’s silence” disturbs him, but at the end he carries on with the hope that what Bergman adverted to as an answer from God will blessedly arrive.  It may be that Tomas will stop surprising his ex-lover with the odd “indifference to Jesus Christ” which she says the reverend’s personality is marked by.

I believe most of Bergman’s films are failures, but Winter Light, albeit not flawless, succeeds.  Typically it is directorially outstanding.  Consider the naturalistic sequence outdoors, after a man has committed suicide, when wind-blown snow and the noisy rapids point to nature’s inexorable power and fascination.  Consider the captivating scene where Tomas’s car is at a railroad crossing.  The film is serious without being great, exquisite without being a masterpiece.

(In Swedish with English subtitles)

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