Through a Glass Darkly
(1961), directed by Ingmar Bergman

Through a Glass Darkly is a 1961 Swedish film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, and produced by Allan Ekelund. The film is a three-act "chamber film", in which four family members act as mirrors for each other. It is the first of many Bergman films to be shot on the island of Fårö.

The title is from a biblical passage (1 Corinthians 13) in which seeing through a glass darkly refers to our understanding of God when we are alive; the view will only be clear when we die. The title literally means As in a Mirror, which is how the passage reads in a 1917 Swedish translation of the Bible.

Bergman described Through a Glass Darkly as a “chamber film,” an allusion both to the chamber plays of Strindberg (Bergman's favorite playwright), and to chamber music in general. In line with the “chamber” theme, the film takes place in a single 24-hour period, features only four characters and takes place entirely on an island.

The story takes place during a twenty-four hour period while four family members vacation on a remote island, shortly after one of them, Karin (Harriet Andersson), who suffers from schizophrenia, was released from an asylum. Karin's husband Martin (Max von Sydow) tells her and Minus's father, David, that Karin's disease is almost incurable. Meanwhile, Minus tells Karin that he wishes he could have a real conversation with his father, and cries because he feels deprived of his father's affection. David (Gunnar Björnstrand) is a second-rate novelist who has just returned from a long trip abroad. He announces he will leave again in a month, though he promised he would stay. The others are upset, and David gives them bad, last-minute presents. He leaves them and sobs alone for a moment. When he returns, the others cheerfully announce that they too have a "surprise" for David; they perform a play for him that Minus has written. David takes offense (although approving on the outside with cries of "author, author") at the play, which can be interpreted as an attack on his character and art.

That night, after rejecting Martin’s erotic overtures, Karin wakes up and follows the sound of a foghorn to the attic. She has a psychotic episode involving voices and the peeling wallpaper, and she swoons. David, meanwhile, has stayed up all night working on his manuscript. Karin enters his room and tells him she can't sleep, and David tucks her in. Minus asks David to come with him out of the house, and David leaves. Karin looks through David's desk and finds his diary, learning that her disease is incurable and that her father has a callous hunger to record the details of her descent into madness.

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Tags: Ingmar Bergman, Max von Sydow, cinema, film, madness, movies, schizophrenia

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Replies to This Discussion

Oddly enough, Wild Strawberries is one of my least favorite.
I think it's great. And saying that Sjöström is excellent here would be an understatement. What exactly don't you like in Wild Strawberries?


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