Sunday, September 02, 2007

Through a Glass Darkly (Ingmar Bergman, 1961)

***½
Sweden

The first chapter in a trilogy on godlessness, this deceptively serene-looking chamber piece proved a turning point in Ingmar Bergman's filmography. He abandoned his stark, bracing expressionism and took up the spare, subtle visual style that favoured natural-looking light and would go on to dominate his future work. And here he also began to finetune and concentrate on his uncanny, relentless knack for sneaking up and closing in on the nastier things gnawing at the heart of the human condition. Very soon after he would become much better at this sort of thing and he would shake off the clumsiness and artificiality that pop up to mar this examination of a writer who exploits his daughter's mental instability for material. But even though it lacks the innate tension and careful probing of Bergman's later, better work, there's enough here worth digesting; the performances are peerless and the compositions absorbing throughout.

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