A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman

3 May

Synopsis: The Criterion Collection based on Bergman’s own spiritual crisis, brings you fully restored, his trilogy of films produced between 1961 and 1963. Bergman stories concern themselves with dysfunctional family relations, loss of spirituality and abandonment by God. The three challenging films in the trilogy or chamber pieces are as follows: Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light and The Silence. Bergman and his new cameraman the brilliant Sven Nykvist gave the cinema going public three stories in rapid succession of release that threw out Bergman’s images of dreamy landscapes and chess games with death in exchange for a darker reality of angst and despair.

Reviews: Through a Glass Darkly centers around Karin played with a terrifying realism by Harriet Andersson. She is  a psychologically fragile woman,who seeks recovery from a nervous breakdown while on a remote-island vacation with her family. Her father portrayed by Gunnar Björnstrand, is a successful writer who regards her with clinical detachment. Karin’s husband , a doctor portrayed by Bergman regular Max Von Sydow,  feels unavailing in the effort to treat her. Karin’s brother portrayed brutally by Lars Passgard, is wrapped up in his narcissistic quest for sexual fulfillment. Karin’s descent into further loneliness and delusion exacerbates the heretofore unspoken alienation at the heart of this entire family, and drives the characters to brood over the existence of God, in Karin’s case, imagine that God is the chilling spider hidden behind an attic door. Through a Glass Darkly is heartbreaking, and a powerful work of art.

Winter Light stars Gunnar Björnstrand, this time playing a pastor suffering a crisis of faith while ministering to a shrinking congregation, he wrestles with the question does God exist?   Has God Abandoned me? He has no answers and he a man of the cloth feels empty and powerless. Max Von Sydow plays a parishioner lost to acute anxiety over the possibility of a nuclear holocaust. Neither man can help or heal the other, or even inspire renewed confidence in practiced rituals and older, more certain views of the world. Set on a chilly, Sunday afternoon, Winter Light‘s heavy stillness, lack of music, preference for intense close-ups and distancing long shots, and barren setting all lead us inescapably into the core of a profound silence, an echo chamber in which love can’t grow and religion rings hollow.

The Silence, The last chamber story in the trilogy is a nightmarish story of two sisters, Esther portrayed by Ingrid Thulin and Anna portrayed by Gunnel Lindblom, and the latter’s son played by Jörgen Lindström, all traveling by train to Sweden but forced to stay in a foreign country when Esther’s chronic bronchial problems require her to rest. A stifling atmosphere, a desolate hotel, encounters with a troupe of carnival dwarves, Anna’s anchoring illness, and an empty sexual encounter for Esther underscore the unnerving feeling that God has abandoned these characters to dubious salvation in their own connection. A highly memorable film.

These are perhaps Bergman’s most thought provoking films and are considered masterworks by this cinema giant. The mood set by the language of the images through-out each film rivet you and challenge your spirituality and religious beliefs.  The drama and intensity each film captures draws you into each story, kudos to the actors who were so true to the emotions, to Sven Nykvist’s stark and moody cinematography and to Bergman whose deeply layered story telling brings these masterworks to level of cinematic art rarely seen.

Available on Netflix, DVD, and for purchase at Amazon.com

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