it’s the second installment in bergman’s 'silence trilogy'—in between through a glass darkly (1961) and the silence (1963)—the silence either of a god who’s stopped talking or of the gaunt and pious who’ve lost the capacity to tune into the din frequency of the muttering insubstantial voice of spirit. these films exist independently from each other--(save for a brief reference made in the silence to a character from winter light, uncle presson)--but they’re all fastened to the same theological/philosophical investigations born from the seventh seal (1957).
Of course the philosophy of an artist does not matter much if it is merely an afterthought and does not harm his art.“”Nietzsche, The Gay Science
this is one of the best compliments bergman receives from even his most occasional fans. his films take very seriously the confines of their moral realm but are not confined by them--they are documentative psychological investigations of the consequences of mores.
this film is for me, the third installation in self-curated trio i call the 'precious piety trilogy': diary of a country priest (1951); viridiana (1961) and winter light (1963). these are films whose main character spend the entirety of the plot in the grips of an irreversible challenge to a piety they’ve hitherto relied on as powerfully corrosive solvent into which every stint of doubt and omnipresent suffering could be dissolved. piety, as a psychological manifestation, is older than religion. It is the failure to understand the fundamental status of piety in the routine of worship that relegates even the most brazen modern atheist to a realm just shy of serious (daniel denett, sam harris, richard dawkins and to lesser extent, christopher hitchens). previously, atheism found its most rigorous advocates within the church—it was presupposed that a talent for religion is a prerequisite for the most potent apostasim. previously, it was generally agreed that what was most threatening about atheism was the tendency of an especially talented orator, in sympathetic opposition to the church, to say in their multifarious ways: there is too much of a god in me, to believe in a god. in a language more relevant to us, one might say: i am too pious to not believe in a god. how much more importance this attitude awards to the instinct of devotion as fundamental yet separate to the history of the religious experience. bresson’s curé de campagne; buñuel’s eager and rugged nun-in-training and bergman’s myopic and jaded priest—each in their own way muffle the silent scream for the loss of their precious piety.
One cannot be too careful to avoid bearing any artist a grudge for an occasional, perhaps very unfortunate and presumptuous masquerade. ""Nietzsche, The Gay Science
where bergman is concerned, such a cautious attitude is unnecessary—he wasn’t one for masks; he wanted to show things in their simple light. there were things he couldn’t show us, and for those occasions he sat us down at a table and made for us a dramatic gimmick of a different species: the monologue. the nearly 6min long direct address of ingrid thulin’s character is a leap of faith by way of how much a film can thrive on good writing, and the talent of actors that believe in the writers’ vision to the extent of a collaboration. it was the most pared down and yet most wrenching address to the camera i’ve ever seen. for an actor in that setting, there’s no place to hide, not behind the interruptions of another character’s line, nor in the diegetic cues of sounds and objects that even the most menial setting provides abundantly. i imagine you have to trust entirely your ability to understate the significance of what you’re saying and the ability of an audience to sit at the table with you and reciprocate that same unflinching attentiveness. ingrid thulin’s performance was a masterclass on such a leap.
in summa summarum, i give this film 10.38 communion wafers out of 11.