Cracks in a family gathering emerge over the span of twenty-four hours in Bergman’s Through A Glass Darkly. A family descends on an island for a vacation. Unwanted gifts are unwrapped, and a father leaves a picnic to break down in an isolated room. This relatively simple tale examines the desperation surrounding the effects of mental illness on a family. An “immaculately wrought drama…allows nothing to dilute the force of its emotional and philosophical thrust” in a film that is simple, stark, striking, and even terrifying at times (Andrew). A masterpiece of existential confusion.
We watched Through A Glass Darkly on Criterion DVD (#209).
A surprisingly small cast and sparse setting deliver an emotionally powerful and honest portrayal of mental illness. For me, this film reminded me a great deal of Splendor In The Grass, even though this film predates it. Both of these films capture a unique brand of hysteria and its effects on the day to day lives of family and friends who love the victim. Even though the film was shot entirely in black and white with English subtitles, this did not detract from the universal experience of loving someone who is suffering.
An absolutely beautiful film that would work just as effectively on a stage as it does on the screen. Having a lot of firsthand experience helplessly witnessing loved ones suffering from the effects of mental illness as it transforms their persona in terrifying swings, I found a lot of beautiful accuracy of the pain and frustration that this film portrays. This helplessness is incredibly and beautifully rendered in both the literal and figurative aspects of this film, from the simple script to the striking sets around the island. As the terrifying reveal approaches to present the extent of Karin’s illness (impressively captured in Harriet Andersson’s performance), we feel as drained and exhausted as the men in her life who care about her. This film was hard to watch at times, but certainly captures the “silence of God” that Bergman set out to bring to the screen in his story (Andrew).