Sunday, June 25, 2017

Såsom i en spegel

So I watched Through a Glass Darkly off my DVR. It's available on DVD as part of a pricey three-movie Ingmar Bergman set courtesy of the Criterion Collection. I'm glad I've knocked it off my list of to-see movies, but I don't know that I'd spend Criterion Collection money on it. I didn't realize when I watched it that Bergman Week begins tomorrow.

The movie starts off with a bunch of people getting out of the water after going for a swim. It turns out that those four people are the only characters in the movie. Karin (Harriet Andersson) is married to Martin (Max von Sydow), and is visiting her father David (Gunnar Björnstrand) and younger brother Minus (Lars Passgård) at the family's summer house on the island of Fårö, off the northern coast of Gotland, the largest island in the Baltic Sea.

Everything seems happy at first, but we quickly realize that there's a lot going on beneath the surface. Karin just got out of the hospital. In fact, it was a mental hospital, and there's the question of whether she's truly cured of her disease, which I don't think the movie openly names but is presumably schizophrenia. Minus is a teenager and going through what nowadays would be considered teen angst. And neither child has as good a relationship with their father as they'd like. Dad is an author who is commercially successful but who feels artistically blocked. Dad goes off to the rest of Europe for various work-related reasons, leaving the kids alone -- you wonder who's taking care of Minus all this time.

Karin starts to act just strangely enough that it's easy to wonder whether this is a relapse. Eventually, she finds her father's diary and reads it, finding out that her schizophrenia is most likely incurable, and that Dad is nuts enough that he wants to chronicle the course of the disease. Minus continues to feel unappreciated. And Karin's behavior continues to become even more erratic.

There's not much action in this movie, but a lot of talk. And talk. And more talk when they're done talking. Frankly, I found it all to be the sort of psychological mumbo-jumbo that people who like to pan foreign movies as being "pretentious" would probably find stereotypical. That having been said, this one isn't anywhere near as bad as Bergman's later Cries and Whispers which I reviewed here some months back. The black-and-white cinematography is also lovely, stark at times and making me want to visit Gotland to see it in living color. (Fårö was a military zone closed to foreigners during the Cold War but is apparently open now.) Ingmar Bergman liked the area so much that he eventually moved there, dying on the island in 2007.

If you're a fan of Bergman, you'll probably enjoy Through a Glass Darkly. If not, I'd suggest starting with something conventional like The Seventh Seal.

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