Close Up

2 December 2018: Winter Light


Winter Light
Ingmar Bergman
1962 | 80 min | B/W | Digital
Swedish with English subtitles

"The stark, pared-down style that defines Bergman's Faith Trilogy reaches its apex in Winter Light, a film whose persistent chilliness is a direct outgrowth of the inner life of its protagonist, a Lutheran pastor, Tomas, in the midst of a crisis of faith. Ill and nearly friendless, Tomas preaches to his measly congregation with a distinct lack of passion, all while warding off the advances of a lonely schoolteacher and struggling to console his suffering devotees. In reflecting this dreary midwinter existence, Bergman, working closely with Sven Nykvist, removes any and all flourishes from his visual language, responding to Tomas’ paralyzing numbness by leeching the film of the sensual pleasures of camera movement and musical score. The film is defined by long shots in unglamorous light, and key moments (such as the suicide of Tomas’ fellow depressive in icy rapids) are seen only from a detached perspective that mimics the inaction of a silent God. That it all leads to one of the most vicious verbal assaults in Bergman’s output should come as no surprise, but the weighty grimness of Winter Light is also enveloping, qualifying it to stand alongside Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest as one of cinema’s most enduring treatments of Christianity and its discontents." – Harvard Film Archive

Part of our season on Ingmar Bergman