Ingmar Bergman and Gunnar Bjornstrand (Pastor Ericsson) during the shooting of “Winter Light”

“Winter Light” is the second part of Bergman’s “religious trilogy” (the first, “Through Glass Darkly” – 1960, and the third, “Silence” – 1962). In the first film, the basic (for achieving enlightened life) human abilities – to love without psychological defensiveness and to be vital without de-sublimation, which together as a sacred combination make human beings spiritual creatures, leave the existential circumstances of human life and retreat to “heavens”. In the third film of the trilogy “god” (the form in which the unity of human love and human vitality takes place outside life) has “died” and human beings have to start from the beginning. But “Winter Light” depicts the situation when “god is silent”, and human beings slowly grow towards understanding that it is up to them to return their libidinous energies back into the (earthly) life to reassess and reposition their ability to love. In all of the films of trilogy Bergman’s points about spiritual life are mediated by the scrupulous psychological analysis of the characters – psychological and spiritual realities become aspects of each other.

Winter light is a metaphor of light of love/vitality in a condition of being distant from human life. The film depicts the Christian faith of seven characters – Pastor Tomas Ericsson and the six parishioners of his Church (three men and three women). Each protagonist‘s faith is cinematographically described as uniquely created by their individual intelligence and will in the unique circumstances of each of their lives. Bergman approaches each character’s religious belief as a sacred reality, as a precious creation. Some of the personages he personally admires, some he respects and others are objects of his “loyal criticism” that is full of empathy and good faith.

The frankness and gracious intensity with which the director depicts the human destinies and encounters between the characters are overwhelming, as much as actors’ performances making each individual soul radiate its own truth. Each personage is represented as having been formed by life and human history, nothing is fabricated in order to entertain or sentimentally please the audience. With all seriousness, the film is so congruent with the nature of human emotions that it’s taken inside the souls of the viewers as naturally as air by our lungs.

The film addresses Christians of various denominations, as much as people of other beliefs and non-believers with equal authority, and is an icon of not only a philosophical, but a humanistic cinema.

The film confirms that Bergman’s cinema is made for 21st century even more than it was for 20th century.

“Winter Light” can be taken as a proof that the media-brothers – theater and cinema, can collaborate together in love and friendship, balancing human existentiality and mentality, when visual symbolism of camera angles, composition of shots and geometry of peoples’ movements and postures can accompany melodies of human emotions sung by the actors’ souls.

Bergman is encouraging Gunnar Bjornstrand exhausted by the contradictions of Pastor Ericsson and his attempts to balance it.

Bergman is ready for Ingrid Thulin’s (Marta Lundberg) improvisatory suggestions which may change their interpretive perspective

While shooting of “Winter Light” Ingmar is warming up in the middle of Swedish chilling winter

Pastor Ericsson is trying to overcome the extreme theological doubts of his parishioner Jonas Persson (Max von Sydow) – (in the center). In the right corner we see (in profile) Jonas’ wife Karin (Gunnel Lindblom). While trying to help Jonas Pastor tries to address his own, not as extreme but much more radical doubts.

Does Pastor’s work require honesty or rather ability to unburden and pacify the parishioners’ souls by almost any price? Often Tomas tries to find a compromise between the two positions, but sometimes, as a decent person whose humility puts a limit to his confidence, he doesn’t know what to do and what to say. It’s these moments of helplessness make the Pastor a refined and spiritually mature believer. This shot depicts one of such difficult moments in Tomas Ericsson’s duties when he, as if, is transformed into his hand which is, as if, lost weight, lost confidence and cannot either expressively gesticulate nor rely on his office desk. The Pastor should be a human being – Bergman, seems, suggests here, and until it is true, and representative of religious authority is not transformed into a microphone producing propagandist clichés; we have a hope to grow in our faith.

It is the church sexton Algot Frovik (Allan Edwall) who is able to help Pastor to overcome his torments connected with his responsibility of a Pastor in relation to his parishioners. People accept authoritarian position of the church (power aspiration that builds a nest within the very Christianity), but is it right for the spirituality of the Pastor to participate in this power? Frovik shares with Tomas the alternative way of feeling – that of the existential parallelism between Christ’s and human suffering as the essence of Christian message.

Posted 22 Jun 2013 –   Ingmar Bergman’s “Winter Light” (1962) – When Existential Spirituality is Retreated (Became Aggrandized) to the Heavens by Acting-Out Politics