Tag Archives: Carl Theodore Dreyer

Winter Light on the Summer Solstice

It’s Movie Night in Central Kentucky. It’s summer with 132% humidity; just the night for a cold beer or Ingmar Bergman’s WINTER LIGHT.

I have radically mixed feelings about the films of Ingmar Bergman. Some of the longest and most tedious decades of my life have been spent watching PERSONA and FANNY AND ALEXANDER and THE VIRGIN SPRING…and yes, THE SEVENTH SEAL. Some of the most interesting times have been spent watching THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY, SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, SUMMER WITH MONIKA…and yes again, THE SEVENTH SEAL (scratchin’ my head).

And then there’s WINTER LIGHT.

I love this film. I first saw it in the summer of 1969. It sank its claws in me and has never let go. I’ve watched the film about a half-dozen times since then.

It is small, intimate, exquisite, painful story-telling about the largest of issues. It would never make it in today’s United States of Donald Trump, AK-14’s (or 47’s, or whatever), Kim Davis, or ark parks.

It whispers – it doesn’t shout. It agonizes – it doesn’t sneer. It lingers and ponders – it’s not a sound bite or tweet. It thinks for itself – it doesn’t meme (is that even a verb?). It’s not reality TV – it’s reality. No need to fake it for the judges or a hidden camera or the voters at home – just tell the story in the unforgiving glare of truth.

I’m reminded of Carl Theodore Dreyer’s captivating film; JOAN OF ARC, which tells its story as a ballet of faces. You cannot look away.

WINTER LIGHT takes it further. Bergman uses his faces in excruciatingly long shots – but his characters also speak – directly and unblinkingly. There is no escape from their story; not for you as the viewer, and certainly not for Gunnar Bjornstrand, the faith-challenged priest of the story or Max Von Sydow the faith-bereft farmer he attempts to counsel.

Faith is hard. It’s available to everyone, but not granted to everyone. It has value. It will save/redeem/inspire…but not everyone.

Mr. Bjornstrand’s performance is wondrous to me. I totally believe Bjornstrand’s discomfort with his cold/flu. I believe his discomfort comforting his parishioners. I believe his weariness and desperation. I believe his doubt. I believe his desire to believe. I watch the film waiting for his epiphany like a boy raised in a Southern Baptist Sunday School should. I wait for Godot as a child of the sixties should.

This is great storytelling and nothing gets blown up and there are no super-powers…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

How I Wish I’d Spent My Summer Vacation

It’s Movie Night with Ingmar Bergman. Let the dancing begin!

I watched Ingmar Bergman’s film; Summer With Monica. The rest of you probably watched it in 1956 or 66 or 76 or 86 or… What can I say? I’m in a different time zone and moving with my usual glacier-like speed.

This is a lovely film!

The film mashes several little boy fantasies;

  • stealing a boat and sailing away,
  • the stolen boat belonging to an iconic “older dark man in the castle” – his father in this case – even better,
  • and escaping to summer islands with a willing female companion,

against the inevitable realization of what it means to be a rent-paying, child-rearing adult. The resulting sparks in this case are difficult and discouraging, but not unhopeful.

Whoa. Not unhopeful! This is Bergman, right?

I am ambivalent about Bergman. The craftsmanship is evident. The tricks with light and dark are mesmerizing. I am always impressed…and usually bored. The films are tedious. I don’t require a car crash every thirty seconds but I do appreciate an occasional pulse.

I know Mr. Bergman was famously influenced by the films of Carl Theodore Dreyer (whom I admire) and you can see this when his camera dwells on the faces of his actors, most especially in Winter Light. But in Dreyer’s films, Joan of Arc as an excellent example, while the actors’ faces are the main tool for telling the story, those faces don’t feel static or tedious. Bergman misses this distinction.

However, Summer With Monica never becomes stationary. Most of the scenes in this film leave you wanting more. How often can you say that about a Bergman film?

I really liked the film and will be thinking about it for a while yet.

Oh yeah, Harriet Andersson was pretty cute too!