Såsom i en Spegel [Through a Glass Darkly] dir. Ingmar Bergman
Through a Glass Darkly is an intense exploration of mental disintegration and defect in various forms. The film takes place over a period of 24 hours, in which a family consisting of father David, son Minus, daughter Karin, and her husband Martin vacations on an island after Karin’s release from a mental institution. The family dynamic is complex, wherein each individual is currently facing a defining personal challenge that, in the limited setting of the island, is reflected onto the other members of the group. Karin and her father David, a writer, are both hobbled by internal conflicts and blockages, which in turn are at the root of the struggles that both Martin and Minus undergo. Karin feels that she is simultaneously inhabiting two worlds, and that she must choose one. Martin grieves for Karin, whose schizophrenia has been diagnosed as virtually incurable, but also grieves for himself as he has realized that he is regardless bound to her by the strength of his affections. Minus, on the other hand, longs for a meaningful relationship with his father, whom he perhaps subconsciously disparages (evidenced in the play he puts on) yet consciously admires, while David is entirely consumed by his writer’s block.
The title of the film refers to a passage in the Bible that describes our capacity to understand or “see” God while we are alive. In this film, the concept of “God” has different meanings for the individual characters. Karin confesses to Minus that she is waiting for God to arrive, and perhaps to her God represents an indication or clarity as to which world she must choose to live in. Her father, after experiencing something of a personal revelation, feels that God represents the concept of hope, and that all hope on earth stems primarily from love. The film ends with a beautiful conversation between David and his son, the former finally establishing the connection that Minus had longed for.
Through a Glass Darkly is masterfully executed, and the first in a series of three such chamber films. Madness and its effects on those who love its victims are two of Bergman’s favorite themes, explored also (and in my opinion more inventively) in his masterpiece, Persona.
Assessment: Must See