farewell to winter light

Ingmar Bergman and god. Antagonistic and at arm’s length and without resolution. A movement between finding security in the idea of god and then followed by severe and chronic bouts of doubt. Maybe its all about a desire for security, that insurance policy to protect in the wake of collapsing ideologies, those flimsy constructions that seem to abandon us and we them. To Bergman, the human condition is our making of plans, mental blueprints that devise new projects, structures and systems, almost nihilistic in temperament that will supplant and discard the old methods of gaining insight into loneliness. To Bergman, if this was not the dynamic, then religious systems would never take form….

---Bergman’s father was a martinet, a conservative Lutheran minister who severely punished his son. Yet instead of inspiring a loathing for religion in the boy, Bergman wrote in his autobiography "Laterna Magica" that much of it spurred his sense of wonder: "I devoted my interest to the church’s mysterious world of low arches, thick walls, the smell of eternity, the coloured sunlight quivering above the strangest vegetation of medieval paintings and carved figures on ceilings and walls. There was everything that one’s imagination could desire—angels, saints, dragons, prophets, devils, humans." Accordingly, Bergman’s trilogy pulsates with the same human drama that permeates the Bible: doubt and need, love and hate, despair and death, madness and incest, homosexuality and lesbianism, masturbation and sex, lust and rape, compassion and coldness, trust and betrayal. These are not, strictly speaking, modern themes, but in Bergman’s hands, they acquire unfamiliar contours and feel uncannily new. ---Read More:http://moreintelligentlife.com/story/warm-films-shot-cold-climates

TM [INTERVIEWER]: …And this brings us to The Hour of the Wolf. The other central theme, as I see it, is a new sort of concept of God. Until then, God had been a tremendous authoritarian figure, with specified ethical principles. But here he suddenly turns into something ice-cold; a monster, an anonymous being, a spider-god. In Harriet’s line: ‘A rapist God.’ Can you explain this change in your idea of God?

INGMAR BERGMAN: As far as I recall, it’s a question of the total dissolution of all notions of an other-worldly salvation. During those years this was going on in me all the time and being replaced by a sense of the holiness–to put it clumsily–to be found in man himself. The only holiness which really exists. A holiness wholly of this world. And I suppose that’s what the final sequence tries to express. The notion of love as the only thinkable form of holiness.

At the same time another line of development in my idea of God begins here, one that has perhaps grown stronger over the years. The idea of the Christian God as something destructive and fantastically dangerous, something filled with risk for the human being and bringing out in him dark destructive forces instead of the opposite. Unquestionably this is one of the main motifs in A Passion [also known as Passion of Anna]. Doesn’t the parish clerk in Winter Light parody the confession inn Through a Glass Darkly? Read More:http://www.adherents.com/people/pb/Ingmar_Bergman.html

---Bergman achieves the same with Ingrid Thulin as Ester, a jealous older sister, humiliated by Anna (Gunnel Lindblom), and her sibling’s desire for a complete stranger in a foreign city. If we take the interior look of Bergman’s picture, we can see that Carné’s legacy, complete with hotel mise-en-scène permeates its dream-like hotel atmospherics (at which the Frenchman specialized) and its sense of an enclosed, designed world full of sharp, off-kilter detail. In both its look and its feel The Silence also references Hôtel du Nord (1938) and Le Jour se lève (1939).---Read More:http://filmint.nu/?p=4

A deepest instinct, embedded in our ideals, dreams and desires, is this searching for communion with others, which to Bergman is part of a profound motivation to arrive at a sense of security; communion being regarded as that act that will harmonize, put in equilibrium, our acceptance of the fact of total solitude. To Bergman, there is a passable boundary between religion and ideology as faiths of equal intensity, say veganism and luthernaism and the absence of the commitment results in the same inner morass, the identical exposure to dark, unfathomable powers.

It goes back to modernist artistic aesthetics, where what looks real is an illusion created by one’s own desires, and like Picasso, it guides Bergman’s own fascination with the mad and monstrous in relationship with the fatalistically erotic. Sensations you can’t really make rational sense of and very much like Picasso, Bergman and god always goes back to a somewhat chaotic, shambling construction of figures that have been been shattered or disintegrated into fragments, but the assembly job does not quite add up to a harmonious figural whole and that religious structure is always collapsing maintained by the religious anxiety that feeds on this. Like Picasso, there is always some shred left of the figurative; a little ping somewhere that discards salvation but is still willing to question atheism’s contention that religion is just a symptom of psychosis, a conduit in which to channel the psychiatric into the ecclesiastical.


So we drove about, looking for churches, my father and I. My father, as you probably know, was a clergyman–he knew all the Uppland churches like the back of his hand. We went to morning services in variouis places and were deeply impressed by the spiritual poverty of these churches, by the lack of any congregation and the miserable spiritual status of t

lergy, the poverty of their sermons, and the nonchalance and indifference of the ritual.

In one church, I remember–and I think it has a great deal to do with the end of the film–Father and I were sitting together. My father had already been retired for many years, and was old and frail. No one was there but him and me, well I suppose the clergyman’s wife was sitting there too–no, she wasn’t, it was the churchwarden; and I suppose a few old women had turned up too. Just before the bell begins to toll, we hear a car outside, a shining Volvo: the clergyman climbs out hurriedly, and there is a faint buzz from the vestry, and then the clergyman appears before he ought to–when the bell stops, that is–and says he feels very poorly and that he’s talked to the rector and the rector has said he can use an abbrviated form of the service and drop the part at the altar. So there would be just one psalm and a sermon and another psalm. And goes out. Whereon my father, furiouis, began hammering on the pew, got to his feet and marched out into the vestry, where a long mumbled conversation ensued; after which the churchwarden also went in, then someone ran up the organ gallery to fetch the organist, after which the churchwarden came out and announced that there would be a complete service after all. My father took the service at the altar, but at the beginning and the end. Read More:http://www.adherents.com/people/pb/Ingmar_Bergman.html

…INGMAR BERGMAN What do you mean by an agnostic?

JS Well, an agnostic, I suppose, is someone who, after struggling with a group of problems, just drops them. Since he has found no answer to them, he simply drops them.

INGMAR BERGMAN: Or one might say the problem dissolves. Anyway the crux of the matter is–the problem doesn’t exist any more. Nothing, absolutely nothing at all has emerged out of all these ideas of faith and scepticism, all these convulsions, these puffings and blowings. For many of my fellow human beings on the other hand, I’m aware that these problems still exist–and exist as a terrible reality. I hope this generation will be the last to live under the scourge of religious anxiety. ( ibid.)

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