Movie Review – Through a Glass Darkly

Posted: April 13, 2015 in Movie Reviews
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Bergman’s movies are always special. That too when he deals with the inner demons and not with Christianity, that too with actors like Max Von Sydow and Gunnar Bjornstrand it is even the more special.

through a glass darkly

I’ve always preferred Bergman’s interior set films. When he makes it outdoors, somehow the tension evaporates. There are too many spaces out there. When you see the opening scene of Wild Strawberries where Victor Sjostrom looks there watching the clock, the cart etc. you don’t feel as much involved as and when you are in the room, the famous dining table sequence or the inside of the cars etc.

Winter Lights was the last film I watched of his which didn’t appeal to me. This somehow had the Winter Lights feel but only difference was I was amazed this time. In the initial scene we see four people chatting incoherently in the beach, in knee deep water and coming towards us. It’s very hard to decode who they are and what’s their relation.

David (Bjornstrand) complains about his daughter and Martin (Sydow) complains about his wife. On the other side there are two youngsters who are quite close. My initial assumption was that the two elder people were friends and the younger lot were children of one of the individual. In fact I was correct but Martin ended up to be the husband of Karin (Harriet Andersson). For some reason I thought the pairing was weird, may be it was intentional but with people like Amitabh, Naseeruddin Shah, you never feel like they were young at all. So Sydow for me was like one among them.

Most of the scenes of these four people happen in two different pairings. David and Martin in one world and Karin and Minus (Lars Passgard) in another. The former are considered to be in the sane world and the latter to be in not so sane world. But the focus is on Karin, even though Minus is equally absurd. Why everyone is worried only about Karin, because she is a girl? Is it chauvinism? Only Bergman knows the answer.

You could clearly see the incestuous relationship between Karin and Minus in which Karin acts as if she is casual and Minus rejects it saying, “I don’t like you touching me or roaming around half naked in front of others.” But he being in the same world as of her finally yields to it. Or maybe he yields to it and becomes part of her world completely. Because only after they supposedly have sex off screen she becomes even weirder, or gets into her world completely.

David is the saddest of them all, he’s not happy with his novel, his daughter turns out to be like her wife, his son is a disappointment and to top it all Martin is a gentleman. He’d have got some remorse if Martin had been a cruel husband. Like Parthiban says in Parthiban Kanavu, “En prachanayae athu than da. Enna suthi irukuravanga ellamae nalavanga.” He couldn’t focus his anger on any individual other than himself.

Initially there is a scene where David and Martin go on a boat and have conversation. Then there is a closeup shot of both David and Martin. When Martin stops rowing and the boat stops we clearly see that the camera was not mounted on the boat, rather was shot in some stationary object. Even though cameras were of huge size those days you don’t see someone of Bergman’s caliber to make a mistake like this. At least that rowing shot could have been avoided and the camera base could have been shaken a little.

Talking about camera, who can beat Bergman’s framing, soft lighting where you feel as if you want to kiss the heroine when the light is on her cheeks and his foreplay with shadows is a treat to watch. To top it all, it all happens in black and white so that we don’t lose focus that easily. What a disaster it’d have been if he had been born in color era.

The climax again was brilliant with David and Martin taking Karin to their world, whereas Minus is left behind in his world. Such a lovely symbolism. Karin whereas gets ready like a Lolita, with her sunglasses and all and effortlessly ends up into their world. Only after David has a ‘talk’ with his son I felt real bad for him. He had just got rid of a problem and even before he could breath, he has got a new one.

If this film had been made into Hollywood. Cary Grant for David’s role and Woody Allen for Martin’s role would have been perfect. There were many instances where I thought they two would have been ideal. Yeah Grant and Allen were of different era but this is more of a Midnight in Paris type of casting. Just saying.

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