Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Ingmar Bergman Trilogy The Criterion Collection |
Through a Glass Darkly / Winter Light / The Silence
Actors: Harriet Andersson, Gunnar Björnstrand, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnel Lindblom, Max von Sydow
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
At the beginning of the 1960s, renowned film director Ingmar Bergman began work on what were to become some of his most powerful and representative works?the Trilogy. Already a figure of tremendous international acclaim fo... more »
Bergman?s supreme achievement
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While "The Seventh Seal," "Wild Strawberries," and "Cries and Whispers," are better known, Ingmar Bergman's "Trilogy," variously known as the "Faith Trilogy" or the "Chamber Film" trilogy, is for my money Ingmar Bergman's supreme achievement, approachable only by "Persona" and "Shame" later that decade. Casting a penetrating eye on the zeitgeist of the mid-Twentieth century and the concurrent loss of faith in traditional notions of authority and truth, Bergman created some of the most spellbinding works world cinema and the twentieth century ever produced. It may be more fashionable now for film followers to say they prefer Bresson, Fassbinder, or von Trier--Bergman was so highly praised in the 1960s that it's almost chic to deride him these days--but "The Trilogy," particularly the second and third film in the set, remain unparalleled achievements. "Winter Light" and "The Silence" are breathtakingly dramatic, and, despite what you might have heard, not at all contingent upon an interest in Christian theology. One of my close friends is a Muslim-raised atheist from Iran, and when I brought up "Winter Light" to him a month or so ago he said: "My God! That's one of the most intense films I've ever seen! You can't breath while you're watching it, it's so powerful!" He's right. And despite initial fears that this DVD edition would just reissue the previously released censored versions of these films, Criterion has happily gone back to Sweden and re-mastered the director's own, original cuts of each for this boxed set. If you decide that you can only be bothered to own only the twenty best movies ever produced on DVDs, this set should count as one of the twenty. Von Trier, Kubrick, Dryer, Bresson, Kiarostami, Kurosawa, Ozu, Fassbinder, Renoir... None of them ever hit the heights Bergman achieved with "The Trilogy.""
Outstanding Films and Documentary, Stingy Extras
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I consider Bergman's work from this period (early 60s) to be among his finest, so I pre-ordered this set and have now watched all four (not three) DVDs. And I find that The Silence as presented here restores two of the Gunnel Lindblom-Birger Malmsten scenes, parts of which are absent from the Home Vision Cinema video, in case you were wondering.For the uninitiated, the trilogy is heavy stuff. If you haven't seen any Bergman, you might want to start with the Criterion DVD of Wild Strawberries and go on from there. As for myself, I'm always amazed at the consistency of Bergman's vision, the depth of the performances here, the beauty of the writing and complete mastery of light and sound. The cinematographic compositions, especially in Through a Glass Darkly and The Silence, are frequently awe-inspiring.The fourth DVD is entitled Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie. It is a five-part documentary filmed by Vilgot Sjöman for Swedish television and it details the making of Winter Light, from beginning to end. Roughly 50% is made up of interviews with Bergman where he discusses the themes of the film, the challenges of bringing a completed script to the screen, his relationship and working methods with his cast and crew, and his reaction to critics (presumably Swedish) upon the film's premiere. The other 50% of the documentary shows Bergman and crew at work scouting locations, building the sets, selecting costumes for Ingrid Thulin and Gunnar Björnstrand, blocking, rehearsing and shooting an early scene in the film, later editing another scene, mixing the sound, then screening the finished product. It is an invaluable document for Bergman lovers and film students and I'm happy to have it in my collection.But I'm scratching my head over the lack of extras for the three feature films. If Wild Strawberries deserves one commentary, The Silence alone deserves THREE: one for background and critical exegesis, another for lighting and composition, and a third for camera movement, editing and sound. Peter Cowie gives us 10-minute overviews of the films, and they are helpful, but not really satisfying. There are American theatrical trailers and a mish-mash gallery of posters for the films from several countries (not Sweden or the Nordic countries, however).And if you're looking for comic relief, there are English-dubbed soundtracks for the films. No serious Bergman admirer will use them, but if your Pee-Wee's Big Adventure DVD is not readily at hand, try switching the soundtrack to the dubbed version, especially during some of the big emotional scenes. It's almost a sacrilege, but their crudeness and ineptitude will provoke laughter."
Elegant Box Set from Criterion
Niloofar Ziae | 01/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The three films in this box set represent some of the best of Ingmar Bergman's work in the 'chamber drama' format. As the director's interest in classical music grew, the art house scene saw more and more films from Bergman with just a few characters interacting within one location, like the instruments in a string quartet. In __Through a Glass Darkly__, __Winterlight (aka __The Communicants__), and __The Silence__, Bergman exorcises the spiritual demons of his childhood within a very modern, every-day context. The themes that he deals with are the same ones which drove such classics as __The Seventh Seal__ and __Wild Strawberries__; however, while such movies were theatrical and featured archetypical characters, the films in the trilogy (and most of Bergman's subsequent works) are realistic and feature psychologically nuanced and complex characters. In __Through a Glass Darkly__, a vacationing family is forced to deal with its own disintegration. The daughter, Karin, played masterfully by Harriet Anderson, battles schizophrenia and attempts in vein to stay in touch with consensual reality, while her father David, played by the stoic Gunner Bjornstrand finds himself unable to resist the urge to use her illness as a means to drive his artistic and intellectual work as a novelist. Max von Sydow plays Karin's loving and simple husband, while her brother, Minus, played by Lars Pasgard, comes to represent the anxieties and insecurities of the family's next generation. This is a difficult film to watch. Emotionally, it is overwhelming (though Bergman never strays too far from his characteristic subtlety). The next offering in the trilogy is __Winterlight__. Here Gunner Bjorstrand plays Tomas, a mid-aged priest, whose own crisis of fate fails to save a parishioner in his church from committing suicide at the thought of nuclear holocaust. Meanwhile, in a superb performance, Ingrid Thulin plays Tomas's mistress, an atheist who attempts to save him from his own spiritual and personal failings.Finally, __The Silence__ is the controversial third move in the trilogy. While traveling through a mysterious foreign country, two sisters, the intellectual Ester (Ingrid Thulin) and the sensual Anna (Gunnel Lindblom), and Anna's 10-year-old son, are forced to stay in an almost abandoned hotel. Sexual tension rises as Ester and Anna (presumably intimate) cannot come to terms with their own diverging desires. Anna's son Johan, played by Jorgen Lindstrom, must discover the hotel, while attempting to understand the uncertainty of the world around him.I will not go into the deeper symbolic structures of each film and allow viewers to discover for themselves. __The Silence__, the most bleak AND most optimistic film in the trilogy, is my favorite, though __Winterlight__ will probably compel more viewers. The era of Bergman's auteurism is gone. Just as Antonioni, Dreyer, and other masters of high modernist cinema have lost their once immense popularity in the American and European art house scene, so have Bergman and the 'Bergmanesque' been long in decline. However, it is definitely a good idea to view these films. Even if the singular existential angst portrayed by Bergman is no longer the anxiety of the postmodern era, Bergman's technical abilities and his skills in drawing incredible perfomances from his troupe of actors are a wonder to behold. Each DVD contains a short discussion with film scholar Peter Cowie. Also included is __Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie__ on a separate disk. Bergman fans will enjoy more than two hours of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from the making of __Winterlight__. The box set contains just the right amount of extras. It is packaged elegantly and is a great buy."
Arguments with The Father
G. Bestick | Dobbs Ferry, NY USA | 04/03/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
These three films from the early sixties have often been characterized as Bergman's religious trilogy. In a somewhat enigmatic introduction to the published screenplays, Bergman stated that the films deal with reduction. "Through a Glass Darkly - conquered certainty, Winter Light - penetrated certainty. The Silence - God's silence - the negative imprint. Therefore, they constitute a trilogy."
Well, maybe. While there are some unifying elements, such as the music of Bach, Christian religious imagery, and the reuse of certain actors, these films explore many issues other than man's search for a God who has disappeared. In fact, even though Bergman felt that he had to clear away the underbrush of his religious upbringing to see human nature more clearly, it's not his connection to the harsh Lutheran god that oppresses him, but his relationship with a harsh Lutheran pastor father. His spiritual doubts are about the possibility of true human connection. The attempts to make this connection, and the failure to do so, constitute the true thematic thread here.
In Through a Glass Darkly, we watch Karin (Harriet Andersson) sink into schizophrenia while her husband Martin (Max Von Sydow), brother Minus and father David (Gunnar Bjornstrand) look on helplessly. We find out that David, a writer, has been secretly observing his daughter's madness in order to use it in his next novel. Harriet discovers this and tells Martin, who verbally flays his father-in-law. In a great line, Martin says to David, "Your faith and doubt carry no weight. All that's apparent is your ingenuity." This seems to be Bergman dismissing his own attempts to grapple with the religious dimension of life through his movies. Religion is actually not a big part of this movie's plot. Karin is the only person who sees and wants to get close to God, and she's literally mad. Her psychologist husband Martin represents a bloodless humanism, Minus a kind of callow intellectualism. At the end of the movie, Minus asks his father about God and David says that God is love of other people - this delivered by the most self-absorbed, emotionally isolated character in the movie. Bergman has thought himself into a corner here, and, despite the strong performances by Andersson and Bjorkstrand, what results is a facile display of spiritual nihilism played out in a summer cottage by the edge of the Baltic.
Winter Light explores religious faith more directly. Gunnar Bjornstrand is Tomas, a pastor who has lost his connection to God: he literally can't "hear" him any more. Over the course of three hours (12 to 3) on a gray Sunday afternoon, Tomas fails to save the soul of a despondent fisherman who needs answers to stave off his mushrooming despair, and confronts the anger and frustration of his former mistress, Marta (played by Bergman regular Ingrid Thulin). Tomas both needs her and is repulsed by his own need. Marta understands (and Bergman wants us to understand) that Tomas' inability to give over to human love is directly connected to his inability to experience divine love. At the end, Tomas is preaching to a church empty of any parishioners. Only Marta is there to hear him, but he insists on doing the service anyway. Here Bergman is on firmer and more optimistic intellectual ground. What's important is human striving, and it's only in the striving that we have a chance of discovering our true purpose in the world. Told with a masterful economy of words and images, and featuring a magnificent performance by Bjornstrand, Winter Light is one of Bergman's strongest films.
The Silence gained notoriety not for its bleak tale of two sisters trapped in a deserted hotel in an unnamed country, but for a couple of fairly gratuitous sex scenes that were lurid for 1963. Gunnel Lindblom is Anna, the younger sister. Anna is all physicality and carnal need; she sweats, paces, bathes, has sex with strange men. Her sister Ester (Ingrid Thulin) is her opposite, a sickly translator. Ester's illness has forced them to stop in this unsettling foreign country where tanks clank through streets whose names the sisters can't decipher. Ester smokes, reads, types, masturbates, takes to her bed with a mysterious respiratory malady. Anna's young son Johan is with them, and it's Johan's innocent perceptions that provide some warmth to the schematic struggle between the two women. God isn't mentioned here, and seems completely absent. What's left is the human need for connection and our inability to connect across the abyss of our separate natures. Ester's one spark of emotional warmth comes when she and the foreign hotel waiter both recognize that the music on the radio is Bach, and speak his name in their respective languages. Art, predatory and "weightless" in Through a Glass Darkly, is here the hope of communication across cultures.
Bergman's intellect took him to bleak, life-denying places that he had to feel his way out of. The visceral aspects of theater and film - sets, lighting, music, voices and especially faces - grounded his struggles to understand how humans can function is a world where God's silence is deafening and they can't fathom the promptings of their own beating hearts. His refusal to abandon the emotional path to truth even as his intellect was trying to undercut it puts tension and passion in his work, and keeps it fresh almost half a century later.
Criterion does an excellent job with the packaging and film transfer for these three films. Peter Cowie supplies an enlightening commentary. Another extra is a documentary by Vilgot Sjoman on the making of Winter Light.