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Through a Glass Darkly

#394 - Through a Glass Darkly
Ingmar Bergman, 1961

Four people - a father, his son, his daughter, and his son-in-law - are holidaying on the same island when various personal issues start cropping up and causing problems.

Trying to cram for the upcoming MoFo Top 100 of the Sixties list by frantically trying to watch as many Bergman films as possible probably isn't the best idea since these aren't the kind of films that can be easily consumed and processed. Through a Glass Darkly is an especially prominent example even by Bergman standards in that it centres on a handful of related characters trying to enjoy a holiday but who find their relationships with each other undermined by not just their undiscussed issues with one another but also the personal issues that eat away at themselves even after supposedly achieving catharsis through openly confessional monologues and soliloquies. The film is amply carried by its small ensemble (which features Bergman regulars Gunnar Björnstrand and Max von Sydow as the literary-minded patriarch and his son-in-law respectively). It is also considered part of Bergman's unofficially thematic trilogy about God's silence, which is probably due to how the mental issues affecting Björnstrand's daughter (Harriet Andersson) manifest themselves as hallucinations regarding God's potential existence on a plane understandable to human beings and naturally leads to uncomfortable discussions with the other three characters.

Stylistically, it's Bergman by numbers. Monochromatic cinematography, an almost complete absence of diegetic and non-diegetic music alike, verbose musings on difficult subjects that are delivered by one character in crisis to another character who either refuses to understand or is capable of understanding, the occasional piece of external action that serves as a very real metaphor for the characters' own conflicts (case in point - the storm that hits the island during the last third or so)...it's all here, and it's all accomplished reasonably well. I guess it's not an easy film to give an instantaneous rating to (especially when you utilise a rating system as idiosyncratic as my own is), but I definitely found it to be an interesting film that I would not be opposed to re-watching, but its greater themes and the characters' extremely vocal ruminations on said themes are alternately effective and alienating. In other words, it's like every other Bergman film I've seen, but that naturally doesn't distinguish it as the best, even though Bergman is not the easiest filmmaker to rank.