Through a Glass Darkly is a Swedish drama directed by Ernst Ingmar Bergman in 1961. The film presents the story of Karin, diagnosed with schizophrenia, who spends vacations with her husband, Martin, younger brother, Minus, and father, David. The author of the present paper agrees with the given response on the film in that it is austere, icy, and full of anguish, alienation, and torment. At the same time, the film includes numerous philosophical dialogues that are the food for the viewers thoughts and complicate it. Through a Glass Darkly leaves the viewers with a heavy heart and an unresolved question: is Karin insane or gifted with the sensitiveness to spirits?
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To begin with, it seems necessary to outline critical ideas and episodes of the Through a Glass Darkly. The film starts with the depiction of a traditional family holiday that is not complete without minor quarrels. However, the plot is not that boring as it might seem at first sight. The film’s emotional culmination is reached at the episode when Karin sees the God in a spider that crawls out of a crack in the wall. Bergman does not provide any hints that would help understand whether Karin’s decision that God is a spider with cold eyes and a frightening face is a result of her advancing schizophrenia or supersensitivity to the things that other people cannot notice. An average person could argue that Karin is undoubtedly insane because she hears some voices and thinks that God, a supreme being and the creator of the Universe, is simply a spider living in an old house on a remote island. The critical point is that we, ordinary people, could never know what God looks like and, therefore, the chances are that the main character’s mental illness enables her to see the truth.
Apart from the ambiguity, another element that makes the atmosphere of the discussed picture look strained is how it is filmed. More precisely, Through a Glass Darkly has been shot in black-and-white. In the early 1960-s, it was already possible for approximately three decades to make films in color. This way, it could be inferred that a director’s decision to shoot a black-and-white movie was based on some purpose and not just on the limits of technologies. One way or another, the absence of color undoubtedly makes the motion picture more atmospheric because during, for example, the scenes in the attic, the image lack light and, therefore, conveys the emotional state of the characters.
Additional attention should be paid to the conditions of the house where the family was living during the vacation. Dirty windows, shabby walls, and mess create a depressing impression. These details are not conspicuous in the living room or the kitchen. Nonetheless, the attic, where the most striking event is taking place, is in terrible condition: the walls are cracked, and the wallpapers look like they were hastily pasted decades ago. It seems reasonable to suggest that the director of the movie Ernst Bergman used this interior to make the event look more dramatic. It is impossible to imagine that such a situation could have happened in a freshly renovated house. Where would a spider come from in a place like this? It could also be noticed that fog is an inseparable part of the exterior in the majority of the scenes of Through a Glass Darkly. The fog looks ominous and, even though it is not present in all outdoor episodes, it still creates a nasty feeling in the viewers.
As it has already been mentioned, the picture is generally cold and emotionless. The relations between Karin and Martin or David and both his children are deprived of the warmness that could be observed in typical families. This is particularly evident in the scene on the stairs when the men are holding Karin, who got hysterical because she was frightened by the helicopter and the spider. Even though one could disagree with this claim, for the author of the paper, it seems that the husband, the father, and the brother feel anything for Karin. Furthermore, their assistance is caused not by a sincere willingness to help her but by the rational understanding that they should do it.
Finally, the most challenging thing about Through a Glass Darkly is that it reveals that Karin is not the only person suffering. David is experiencing a creative crisis and is estranged from the family. Minus lack the attention of the father and gets it only at the very end of the picture. Martin, in his turn, is haggard by the illness of his wife, Karin. Still, by the end of the film, all the sufferings come to an end: Karin is hospitalized, and, thus, Martin is relieved of his burden, and David and Minus finally talked to one another. Nonetheless, the entire film is not based on the problems of one person. Instead, it tells a story of several people who were living in their own cages, as Karin claimed in one of the dialogues with Minus.
To conclude, Through a Glass Darkly is indeed a harrowing drama. It raises some philosophical questions and leaves the audience with no answers. However, despite the coldness and straightforwardness, the film’s idea is profound and has a long-lasting aftertaste.
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