Saturday, January 12, 2019

Winter Light

I've mentioned before that there are people who reflexively mark down foreign films on the grounds that they tend to be pretentious. I don't think that's necessarily the case as much as the fact that the foreign films we get are a small portion of other countries' output, and the critics and arthouse owners whose opinions drive what foreign films get screened tend to have a rather different point of vew from the average viewer. A good example of this is Ingmar Bergman's Winter Light.

Gunnar Björndtstand plays Tomas Ericsson, a Lutheran paster in a small rural parish in western Sweden. He's got a small and dwindling congregation, and for the most part he seems to be going through the motions. After the current Sunday service, he talks about celebrating the liturgy at the other church in the parish. But first he has to deal with a couple of people coming to see him.

One is Märta (Ingrid Thulin). She's a teacher at the local school, and ever since Tomas' wife died some years back, she's had the hots for him, somehow thinking he needs a woman to take care of him and love him. The other is a couple, fisherman Jonas (Max von Sydow) and his wife Karin (Gunnel Lindblom). Karin is worried about her husband because he's become discouraged after seeing what the modern world has become, specifically with China's push to acquire nuclear weapons.

Tomas tries to comfort Jonas, but he realizes that God is silent and that he doesn't have the words to comfort anybody any more. It's a distressing fact for Tomas, and it certainly doesn't help Jonas and Karin. So Jonas responds by shooting himself in the head. Märta now feels more than ever that Tomas needs her smothering love.

I hope you can tell by my synopsis that I didn't particularly care for this movie. The big thing is that I found all of the characters to be people whom I at best didn't care about, and at worse actively hated, and not in the hissable way a good movie villain can be hated. Winter Light is the sort of movie that doesn't have any villains. Märta is the worst, though, in that I found her clingy and controlling to the point that I wanted Tomas to push her aside.

Still, Winter Light is the sort of movie that all the people who write reviews for IMDB and other places just love. It's available on a pricey Criterion Collection DVD (actually, I think part of a box set), so if you want to judge for yourself, you can.

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