Winter Light (Nattvardsgasterna)

Winter Light

God, why have you forsaken me?

I like Ingmar Bergman’s films. They’re moody, they’re introspective, and most of all, they’re short (Fanny and Alexander notwithstanding). As I’ve said in previous reviews, Bergman doesn’t play with plots as much as he does with themes and concepts, and explorations of those themes. Here, in Winter Light, the second of his so-called ‘Silence of God’ trilogy, he explores the relationship between the human spirit and that of faith, and how this often tenuous connection can be strengthened, strained, or even severed. This film is a test of faith; whether that be Bergman’s or ours is an exercise left to the viewer. It may turn out to be both.

The “story” this time concerns a priest in the midst of a personal and religious time of crisis, conducting a series of sermons to a paltry group of parishioners, and helping them out with their problems while trying to work out his own, often clashing philosophies. The film uses an average religious sermon to, in a way, introduce us to each of the main characters, through which we will explore many different personal upheavals and dilemmas that challenge each of their faiths. Throughout the pastor’s tenuous belief in the Lord, which takes up roughly the first half of the film, we never set foot outside the church, keeping all the interactions inside the holy building. There is a blatant touch of irony in that most of the characters, most notably the priest himself, pretty much don’t believe in God, so to set the film largely inside a church seems remarkably disconcerted, and wholly intentional. The film, like most of Bergman’s films of the era, seems covered in a mystic gray haze, albeit one we can still see through clearly, and it gives the film a very ethereal and fantastical quality about it.

I am a bit worried that aside from difference in plot, I’m going to run out of things to say about future Bergman films. They’re just too similar, and utilize too much of the same techniques to really differentiate or stand out from each other. Still, they’re better than most of the other works of this type, although I’m not quite sure why; Bergman just has that special magic touch, it seems. I’ll have three more of Bergman’s films to explore on the list, so I’ll have until then to try and nail down just what it is I like about him and his work. Until then, give this a look if the plot of this one interests you, or if you’re looking for some more Bergman, which if you’re a film buff is completely understandable.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

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