The second instalment in Bergman’s 1960s trilogy on the theme of God’s silence in the modern world, Winter Light is the director’s most austere and perhaps purest film. The opening church service brilliantly captures the spectacle of human beings performing a ritual which is meaningless to nearly all of them, including the pastor. Remorse concerning his dead wife and his present mistress brings the pastor to the verge of breakdown. Although continuing to perform his duties, he comes to recognise that the fragile contact between one human being and another counts for infinitely more than the hollow litanies he recites every Sunday. As Robin Wood noted in his book on Bergman, Winter Light ‘epitomises perhaps the most essential inner movement of western civilisation in the last hundred years: the movement away from religious orthodoxy, the discovery of God’s ‘silence’ (or non-existence), the progression into a kind of tentative existentialism. We are far from the grand but spurious gesture of The Seventh Seal: there is nothing picturesque, nothing inorganic, and nothing suspect about Winter Light.’
1962.English subtitles.Black and white.80 mins.