Through a Glass Darkly ★★★★½

"One draws a magical circle around oneself to keep everything out that doesn't fit one's secret games. Each time life breaks through the circle, the games become puny and ridiculous. So one draws a new circle and builds new defenses."

Ingmar Bergman doesn't need a plot or narrative, he takes the natural simplicity of existence and toys with reality and consciousness in order to experiment with life's complexities. Through a Glass Darkly is a visual conception with a philosophical way of thinking. Passionately examining moral and spiritual nature and the effects uncertainty has on the mind.

Karin (Harriet Andersson), who is suffering from a terminal illness and was recently released from an asylum, retreats to a remote island with her disillusioned father (Gunnar Bjornstrand), idealistic husband (Max von Sydow), and angst-ridden brother (Lars Passgard). On the surface they are a loving family and caring family, but under the surface they mirror each other's anguishes while being tormented by their own. Harriet Andersson's Karin is a purely Bergman conception. Clinging to false faith and as her mind crumbles she is kept alive solely by the love of her family. Max von Sydow's performance is reserved, but his presence is always known. Gunnar Bjornstrand is truly harrowing as a broken man finally coming to existential realizations.

The first film in a unofficial trilogy that also features Winter Light (1962) and The Silence (1963), all of which deal with the dark confines of spirituality. Sven Nykvist's use of the island of Faro's landscape creates an eery sense of dreamy isolation, powered further by the use of Sebastian Bach's Sarabande. Bergman is audacious with his relentless testing of religion and God's presence, but what some may mistake as defiance is truly a reevaluation of the essence of faith. I'm always amazed at how he can deal with such dark subjects in the most unsettling ways and still allow that glimmer of hope to show itself at the perfect moment.