Through a Glass Darkly (1961)

through a glass darkly poster 1961 movie sasom i en spegel
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 9/10

Andersson's performance, good visuals

Character driven film rather than story driven isn't for everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Through a Glass Darkly

Studio:   Svensk Filmindustri

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):   October 16, 1961

MPAA Rating:   Not Rated

through a glass darkly harriet andersson max von sydow

It’s going to get worse

On an island for a family retreat, Karin (Harriet Andersson), her brother Minus (Lars Passgård), and her husband Martin (Max von Sydow) welcome back her father David (Gunnar Björnstrand) who is working on his novel.  The family realizes that Karin is in danger as she suffers from schizophrenia which is only getting worse…and she doesn’t even know the level of her own condition.  When Karin learns the truth, her world will fall apart.

Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, Through a Glass Darkly (Såsom i en spegel or As in a Mirror) is an award winning Swedish drama.  Following The Devil’s Eye in 1960, The film won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film with a nomination for Best Original Screenplay.  The Criterion Collection released the film as part of A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman (Criterion #208) with an individually numbered disc (Criterion #209).

through a glass darkly harriet andersson lars passgard

Hey, sis…this vacation is starting to suck.

Movies by Ingmar Bergman are often the epitomy of both classic cinema but also art house cinema.  His stories are often layered and character driven instead of story driven and Through a Glass Darkly is a great example of his work.

As mentioned, the movie is primarily character driven.  The story is almost non-existence and the film comes off very play like (it actually was later turned into a stage play).  Many of the conversations don’t feel very natural, but they work in the context of the film.  The distance between the characters (and the island setting) is demonstrated through the odd dialogue and tone.  While most of the characters are internalizing, Karin’s schizophrenia has her raging against the odd detached nature of the film.

Harriet Andersson rules this picture with her raging performance of a character being torn apart internally.  Her costars have the tougher role of repressing emotion and behavior with Gunnar Björnstrand as the cold father and Max von Sydow as the husband trying to put on the strong face.  Lars Passgård’s Minus rivals Andersson as another character on the verge and needing more than he is being given by his family.

through a glass darkly harriet andersson gunnar bjornstrand abandoned boat

I do bad things…

Bergman also gives great visuals.  The island is both isolated and run down.  The cabin isn’t in the best shape, but it has experienced life with the characters.  The black-and-white film is cold but Andersson does heat up her scenes.

Through a Glass Darkly is a strong film.  It was Bergman’s second Best Foreign Film in a row after The Virgin Spring (1960) and is rightly considered a classic.  It isn’t easy to watch to digest, but it is worth trying for fans of Bergman or film in general.  The film is considered part of a spiritual trilogy with Bergman’s Winter Light and The Silence (both released in 1963).

Related Links:

Winter Light (1963)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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