Genres: Indie & Art House
Ingmar Bergman's gloomy but incisive 1961 classic about a woman's descent into madness--and the inability of her family to mitigate her pain with love--is still a stunning work. Harriet Andersson plays Karin, a psychiatric...  more »


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Genres: Indie & Art House
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House
Format: DVD
Number of Discs: 1
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Movie Reviews

Cosmoetica | New York, USA | 09/21/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Ingmar Bergman's 1961 film, Through A Glass Darkly (Såsom i en spegel), is not one of his best films, although it is one of his most lauded, winning an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. That said, it's quite a good film that simply has not held up that well over the years as a de facto Chekhovian drama- partly due to the melodramatic acting of its lead character, Karin (Harriet Andersson), but more importantly because its handling of psychology and religion seems quite dated, in light of what we now know about mental illnesses and the structure of the brain.
The film follows Karin, her doctor husband Martin (Max Von Sydow), father David (Gunnar Björnstrand), and seventeen year old brother Minus (Lars Passgård) at a vacation home on Fårö island. She suffers from an unnamed mental illness, although it is likely schizophrenia, and hears voices where there are none. Through the course of the film we get revelations about the family, such as a blatantly incestuous relationship between Karin and Minus, which has reduced the brother, a budding playwright, to a sexual cipher, enthralled by his sister's beauty, and mere thrall to her sexual advances and seductions. She constantly cockteases him with her sexuality, reducing him to a sniveling masturbatory voyeur of pornographic magazines. Later, when she has one of her breakdowns in a wrecked boat on the shore, she seduces her brother into full blown sex that both of them later do not speak of, yet which her father and husband cannot not be aware of, on some level. Interestingly, in researching the criticism of this film, I found almost no references to what has to be one of the most blatant depictions of incest ever filmed, or at least certainly to that time. How this could have been missed, or ignored on purpose, and a critical opinion of the film still formed, is beyond me.
That said, while Bergmaniacs may declare this film, and its trilogy mates, as being sine qua non Bergman, and it may be, that does not deny the fact that this film is also middle of the road Bergman, not as bad as some of his lesser screenplays (Cries And Whispers, The Serpent's Egg), but nowhere near his greatest works (Wild Strawberries, Shame). The title, which comes from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:12: `For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known,' bespeaks the melodrama that drenches this film. But, what is most truly known about Through A Glass Darkly is that it represents a phase in an artist's career and the culture of psychology far better than reality. Yet, given that truth, how many ever choose such realities anyway?