Tag Archives: Gunnar Bjornstrand

Top 100 Films #12 – Winter Light (1963)

 

Nattvardsgästerna (1963) Filmografinr: 1963/03#12. Winter Light (1963)
Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
Written by: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Ingrid Thulin, Max von Sydow, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Gunnel Lindblom

My favorite Ingmar Bergman film is one I hesitate to call a “favorite” simply due to the nature of the subject matter explored in his 1963 film Winter Light. The film is the second in a loose thematic trilogy of Bergman-directed movies exploring themes of faith and its effects on people of all walks of life. The trilogy also includes Through a Glass Darkly and Silence, both of which are excellent films in their own right. Winter Light follows Pastor Tomas Ericsson (Gunnar Bjornstrand) over a day as he prepares for his afternoon service in a neighboring town. Over the course of the morning, he has interactions with Jonas Persson (Max von Sydow), who feels depressed after reading about China developing an atomic bomb, Marta Lundberg (Ingrid Thulin), an atheist who is in love with Tomas, and Karin Persson (Gunnell Lindblom), the distraught wife of Jonas. Tomas, who is struggling with questions about his own faith in God, fails to help Jonas with his depressive feelings, which eventually leads to his suicide – leaving his wife Karin alone with their children. Ingmar Bergman is a director who is notorious for exploring difficult themes, most notably about death and faith – two things that almost nobody likes involved in their escapist entertainment. Winter Light is Bergman at his most uncomfortable and instigative – it’s a film with almost no hope and no light. It’s a cold, bitter, challenging, and deeply personal experience in every sense. The bleak nature of Bergman’s script allows for serious questions about God’s silence and one man’s struggle with his once rock solid faith to come across as urgent and deadly serious, especially after it leads to the death of a member of his congregation. Gunnar Bjornstrand’s performance as the Pastor Tomas Ericsson is terrific, allowing members of his congregation to speak at him about their worries and troubles even when he is not sure about his own future with the church. His internal struggle throughout the film is palpable, and makes his interactions with others seem cold and businesslike. Max von Sydow’s performance as the mentally tortured and horribly depressed Jonas Persson is erratic, panicked, and absolutely devastating. When Jonas’ final moments come, the little light truly begins to drain from Winter Light. While it truly is a difficult moviegoing experience, Ingmar Bergman’s film is also one of the most intellectually-challenging experiences I’ve ever had – nothing has ever resonated in my mind quite like Winter Light. I can’t recommend it to many readers, but if the experience sounds like it may be for you, then I can promise you’ll never forget your short time with Winter Light – it’s an unsung masterpiece from one of cinema’s greatest.

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Top 100 Films #25 – Wild Strawberries (1957)

 

1200#25. Wild Strawberries (1957)
Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
Written by: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Victor Sjostrom, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Bjornstrand

Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries is the film that introduced me to international cinema, and showed me just how powerful foreign-language films could be.  It was my first Bergman film, and immediately hooked me and turned me into a lifelong fan.  I saw Wild Strawberries at the perfect (or possibly the unfortunate) time in my life – I had just begun my fight with anxiety and depression, and for the first time I could truly relate to a character on screen. Wild Strawberries follows an aging professor named Isak Borg (Victor Sjostrom), who has learned that he will be honored with a jubilee doctorate award fifty years after his graduation from school.  Borg sets off on the long trip to the awards ceremony with his pregnant daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin).  Along the way, Isak begins to reevaluate and reassess his life and his own decisions – brought on by a series of nightmares and daydreams.  His increased sense of mortality combined with run-ins with several hitchhikers leads to Isak having a far more interesting road trip than he ever expected.  Wild Strawberries is chock full of Ingmar Bergman’s famous themes of death, mortality, life, and age, with the main conflict in the film being a man’s own existential crisis.  Bergman employs the use of atmospheric dream and nightmare sequences, giving much of the film a thick, uneasy tone.  The dream sequences are incredibly well-realized and haunting, with the most memorable coming early on in the film and involving Isak having a run-in with Death.  The film’s emotional payoff is absolutely worth the often bizarre and surreal journey, turning Wild Strawberries into one of the most beautiful and poignant movies Ingmar Bergman ever made.  The film inspired another of my favorite filmmakers, Woody Allen, and its influence can be felt in many of his best films, including Stardust Memories, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Deconstructing Harry. Though all those films are excellent in their own regards, none of them come close to the masterpiece that is Wild Strawberries – one of the very best films from one of the all-time great directors.  Wild Strawberries certainly isn’t an easy watch, but viewers brave enough to tackle its heavy subject matter will find solace in its incredible finale.

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