Thursday, June 7, 2012

Through a Glass Darkly (Ingmar Bergman, 1961)

Four figures come into focus from a water thin horizon, moving toward the shore of an apparently uninhabited island: David, a struggling writer, his adolescent son, Minus, his psychologically tenuous daughter, Karin, and Karin's husband, Martin. All the family members have gathered at the remote island in order to facilitate Karin's recovery from a previous nervous breakdown. David is the most self-absorbed character whose literary struggle has distanced him from his dear ones. David studies Karin with a clinical detachment of a psychological experiment. David is aware of his behavior and his emotional honesty and compunction is profoundly framed in a shattering scene where David cries uncontrollably in a dark room upon realizing how distant he and his children have grown. Martin is the least confused character who is visibly concerned with Karin's well-being, but fails to discharge his sexual energy due to Karin's convalescing conditions. Minus, the most virginal of all, is preoccupied with his own sexual awakening, and uses Karin as a convenient source of female psyche. Minus' emotional closeness to his sister is aptly captured by his plea to the God as he retrieves a blanket for Karin. Karin is the most religious, whose character is represented as an important link between religious devoutness and psychotic delusion. Like most Bergman films, Through a Glass Darkly is a sketch of emotional loneliness, social alienation, and the process of seeking of the God or love, as Bergman would propose.  Through a Glass Darkly is the first film of Ingmar Bergman's religious trilogy, in which the director, in my opinion, establishes the notion of God as a symbol of love, a savior during moments of personal emotional crisis. And this love exists in human connections and familial closeness. This basic theme is represented in the form of the character of David, who realizes after a botched suicide attempt that “God is love”.The film is visually frugal, dark, crisp, and sometimes allegorical. Karin's mental disintegration inside the hull of a shipwreck, symbolizes the tormented soul of Karin. It is a brooding and highly personal film for Bergman whose struggle with his own religious identity and upbringing are supposedly instrumental behind this creative effort. The film's essence is captured when David tells Minus: "I don't know if love proves God's existence, or love is God Himself." In the end, Karin sees God behind the closet door - a stony spider god - a painful allegory of her own family's illusory love.

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