Through a Glass Darkly

Through a Glass Darkly ★★★★★

Often mentioned among Bergman’s greatest achievements, Through A Glass Darkly takes place in a remote island and chronicles the life of a young woman and her family, as they attempt to deal with her declining mental health.

In conventional Bergman style, this film evokes great philosophical questioning on various topics, such as the existence of God and the ethical treatment of the mentally ill. While this is certainly the film’s main focus, Bergman’s masterpiece also touches on themes of love, depression, suffering, loneliness and the importance of art, thus adding greater depth to the film. Of course, one of the film’s finest attributes is its performances; and Bergman no doubt, manages to extract such emotion from his stars, leading to some truly powerful showings from all involved. Personally I felt, and contrary to popular opinion, Gunnar Björnstrand produces the finest performance out of the lot, playing David, a writer struggling to rekindle his magic and using his daughter’s illness to fuel his writing. However, this certainly does not denounce the efforts of the other performers, as Andersson, Von Sydow and Passgård arguably produce some of their most profound work here. 

The film also garners immense visual quality, courtesy of cinematographer
Sven Nykvist, who captures the isolation and emptiness of the film’s setting in a way that makes viewing both pleasing on the eye but also important to the film’s narrative and overall themes. Along with the use of natural light, Through A Glass Darkly is ultimately quite a beautiful piece to look at, but often unpleasant thematically, thus Bergman manages to manipulate his audience with a juxtaposition of beauty and splendour with negativity and desolation. This creates a piece that is shocking and uncomfortable in moments but truly elegant in others, which is more than supported by Erik Nordgren’s mesmerising, Bach-inspired score. 

VERDICT - worthy of its status as one of Bergman’s best, Through A Glass Darkly is a moving and profound look at the human condition, which features an excellent script, some powerful lead performances and a poignant Nordgren score.

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