Through a Glass Darkly Movie Review
The premise of Darkly is possibly Bergman's richest setup despite its simplicity. A small family (dad, daughter, son, daughter's husband) vacation on a remote and lonely island. Over the course of their stay, we discover that daughter (Harriet Andersson) is insane -- and dad (Gunnar Björnstrand), a professional writer, is using her trauma as subject matter for his books. Naturally, this culminates in a disaster after the daughter and her husband (Max von Sydow) discover dad's journals.
As a writer in kind, I find myself torn over what to think about this. I use reality all the time in my work. Some of my best stories have come from the garden-variety events of the present. Even the quirks of my family have proven ripe for the picking. But none of them involve clinical schizophrenia or utter lunacy among a close relative. Would I do it? Or will I, rather? I don't know. The greatest writing comes from the soul, and the soul is informed by reality.
Bergman, in typical fashion, crafts the film with spare landscapes, pale actors (including the very apt Andersson), and cold acting that would turn you off if it wasn't critical to the movie's theme. There are moments of preachiness and emotion is scarce outside of Andersson's nut job, and though it's barely 90 minutes long there are long stretches where nothing happens. Cineastes understand this is part of the Bergman experience, but that doesn't necessarily make it right. The finale is a little too clean, too, especially for the complicated Bergman.
A new digital transfer appears on this new Criterion Collection edition of the film, along with a printed essay and an enlightening video interview with Bergman biographer Peter Cowie.
Available on DVD as part of a box set with The Silence and Winter Light (all part of a trilogy of sorts). Aka Såsom i en spegel.