A widowed priest is troubled by lack of faith. The history centers around his relationship with a schoolteacher, who loves him but whom he can not love back and his bonds to a god he isn't sure he believes in. He tries to find a meaning with love and faith again, discussing his predicament both with those that has a lot of faith and those that might have lost it, in a cold winter landscape.
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Ingmar Bergman's Winter Light is a part of a trilogy of his whichincludes The Silence, and Through a Glass Darkly. However I believe that this middle section is his bleakest. On the surface, this film is about how a preacher loses faith in god and no longer believes in that he preaches to his parish.
This film although it is one of Bergman's shortest films (at only 81 minutes!) The duration of the story is only over a three hour period of time. Tomas Ericsson starts of his Sunday service like any other, but then afterword, a troubled fisherman comes in and asks the father for help... Tomas's advice is to no avail. This sends Tomas into a spiraling depression.
The key in to this film's tone lies in its use of light. The light in this film was meticulously studied by Sven Nykvist and Bergman himself for a span of multiple days. They wanted to measure when and where natural light casts a shadow in the shot. By using just the northern, Icelandic light, this gives the film a naturally mournful tone, one that I believe, could not be artificially done.
Bergman wanted to show that the preacher endured the same time ofmisery that Christ did on the cross. This is the core of the suffering of man. In spite of all the atrocities committed, god still stays silent, or as Richard Dawkins might call god, "The Blind Watchmaker".
No one has all the answers, I believe that regardless of the preist's lack of empathy towards the fisherman, that even if he did answer something, the fisherman, would have already been in the proper mindset to kill himself.
Also one of the struggles Tomas deals with is the love he use to have for a school teacher, and the love he still has for his former (dead) wife. However the incredible performance by Ingrid Thulin as Karin, confuses Tomas. He doesn't know if he can accept loving her because that would ultimately mean leaving his post as preacher.
Winter Light is a dark, and deeply profound view on how man relates (or doesn't relate) to god. It is beautifully shot in black and white, and in spite of its otherwise slow pace, it is a very impacting film.
It should also be noted, that this is what Bergman believed to be his favorite of the films he made.