Friday, January 27, 2012

404. Nattvardsgasterna/Winter Light (1963)

Running Time: 81 minutes
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
Written By: Ingmar Bergman
Main Cast: Gunnar Bjornstrand, Ingrid Thulin, Max von Sydow, Gunnel Lindblom, Allan Edwall
Click here to view the trailer


The second part of Bergman's "Trilogy of Faith" is presented as the fifth chronological Ingmar Bergman entry in the book and is almost as good as the first part of the trilogy.

The story is told in 80 minutes time and takes place over the course of three hours on a snowy Sunday afternoon. We focus in on a small church and more specifically the pastor of the church, who gives a standard sermon to the six who are in attendance, feeding them the blood and body of Christ and then dismissing them from their weekly worship. The pastor is Tomas (Bjornstrand) and he no longer believes in God. As he enters his chambers, preparing himself for a 3:00pm service at another church and nursing a cold, he accepts several visitors. First up, there's Marta Lundberg (Thulin), Thomas's ex-mistress and someone who loves him very much. Marta has made it her life's mission to take care of Tomas and feels that her true purpose on Earth is to be his companion. Unfortunately for Marta, Tomas doesn't feel the same way. He strings her along well enough, but Tomas is forever bound to his dead wife, whom he pledges eternal love to. In fact, it was his wife's death that lead him to doubt the existence of God. Then, Tomas is visited by a couple, Jonas (von Sydow) and Karin (Lindblom). Jonas is beginning to contemplate suicide, as he developed a deep fear when he learned that the Chinese were experimenting with nuclear weapons. Suffice it to say that it's going to be a trying few hours for the pastor.

At about the halfway mark of "Winter Light" I made the decision that I didn't like it very much. In fact, I was even tinkering with the notion of giving it a score somewhere below a '3'. At that point, I was just so fed up with Bergman harping about the existence of God, or lack thereof. I have no problem with anyone who chooses not to believe in God. I don't force my religion upon other people and likewise, I don't like to have their lack of religion forced upon me. Some Christians claim that when you encounter a non-believer that it is your duty as a believer of Christ to spread His word. However, one of the most wretched things I ever witnessed was when I saw a Christian try to convince an atheist that God existed. Even though I believe in God and Christ, there just seems to be something really slimy about one man trying to force his views on another. I believe that every man has a mind of his own and every man has heard about the Bible and has heard, at least in vague description, the story of Jesus Christ. Therefore, every man can choose whether he/she wants to believe or not, on their own without being forced or convinced otherwise. What I'm trying to say, is that I'm sick of Bergman trying to tell me that we're alone in the universe. If that's what he believes, that's fine and if he feels the need to make a movie about it, that's fine too, but must we keep exploring this same idea?

Then I realized something. This story means more to believers than it should to non-believers. I mean, think about it - You have a pastor who is experiencing a crisis of faith. As a believer in God and Christ, that's a tragic story to me. If I were a non-believer, I might be struck with the notion of "Oh, well thankfully this pastor came to his senses and realized that there's no God". But as a believer I can feel sympathy for a clergyman who can't seem to find strength & comfort in Christ.

"Winter Light" is filled with poignant, meaningful moments. One that I noticed right away was immediately after the scene where Tomas rips into Marta, telling her what he really thinks of her and not holding anything back. One thing you can say for Bergman is that he really knew how to capture heartbreak and he really knew how to write hatred and anger. Anyway, after Tomas basically rips Marta's heart out of her chest, he walks to the door, turns around and invites her to come with him to church. It's a moment that says to me, despite what Tomas wants or believes, he's never going to change things. He'll continue being a pastor, preaching the word of God, even though he doesn't believe what he's preaching. Likewise, he'll string Marta along, accepting her cough syrup and crying on her shoulder, even though he doesn't love her. I mean, in simpler terms, the guy is an ultimate hypocrite and really, even though I say I have sympathy for this clergyman, I really shouldn't, because he's really a terrible person.

Anyway, the ultimate decision was positive for "Winter Light". It's my kind of movie really - small cast, small setting (for the most part the entire film takes place in the chambers of the church), dialogue driven and a movie that takes place wholly over a few hours. It's one that really threw me back and forth emotionally, as I went from resenting the story, to feeling deep sympathy for the main character and then losing all the sympathy, as quick as it came. Sven Nykvist may be my new favorite cinematographer, mostly because I didn't have a former favorite cinematographer. His use of natural light, as opposed to artificial light is intoxicating and really gives these films a more realistic sense. I'll stop rambling now.

RATING: 7/10 I enjoyed "Through a Glass Darkly" more actually, but '6.5' just seemed to low for this one, so I knocked it to a '7'. I really wish they would have included "The Silence" in THE BOOK, because I'm really curious to see the last installment of the trilogy.


NOTE: I realize that I'm smack-dab in the middle of "Bergman Week", but I'm afraid the time has come for a much needed hiatus. It's just that I worked REALLY hard to get to my short-term goal of "401 movies watched", that I really burnt myself out. Had I not been hyping "Bergman Week" for months prior, I would've definitely taken the break as soon as my most recent TOP 20 was made. However, I thought I'd try to, at least, get through "Bergman Week" and then I could take a break. Well, I don't think I'm gonna' make it kids. I want to give my full attention and abilities to every film contained in THE BOOK and I just can't do that right now, because I really just need to step away from the journey for a little bit. I don't want to pass a false judgement of anything, especially movies as important as the upcoming Bergman offerings. So, with all that being said, I am officially announcing my hiatus from the blog. Please be aware that this is only a hiatus and those usually never last more than two or three months. I WILL BE BACK, I PROMISE. I may be back in a month, I may be back in three, but I will definitely be back and when I get back, I'll continue with the "Bergman Week" festivities. In the meantime, I think you have enough reading material to keep you occupied. Don't hesitate to continue leaving comments, as I check the blog dashboard every day and read all comments. Thanks to my followers, you guys rock! I'll see 'ya soon.

January 26, 2012 10:51pm


  1. Enjoy your rest.. I may use the time to read some oldies of yours \i've seen but not properly read before.
    Yoy deserve a rest..(and this comment comes from someone who would probably watch Berman's home movie of his wife doing the washing up and think it represents a deep insite into the human condition and love it).. A whole week of Mr., all together, is hard going.
    So therefore, I'm so glad you stuck out long enough to find two you were happy with.

  2. Thank you Ray. I appreciate your kind words. I hope you'll find some old reviews to enjoy. Hey, did the problem with seeing my replies ever clear up? Can you see this one?

  3. Something, somewhere has cleared the problem, thanks..

  4. I watched most of the Bergman films in a short time frame as well. Since you've gone this far, go ahead and watch The Silence. There are other noteable "non-book" Bergman films. Sawdust and Tinsel is very underrated.


  5. Well that one took a major twist from below a 3 to a 7 wow must of majorly improved, glad you enjoyed it! Love Ya! You are doing a great job stick with it!


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