Rashid N.’s review published on Letterboxd:
A short while back, I discovered the fact that Ingmar Bergman had an unofficial trilogy titled the "Faith Trilogy" which consisted of, in order, Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence. I loved the first entry into Bergman's set of films because of its themes, performances, cinematography, and atmosphere but ultimately, I was left disappointed by my own self feeling like the story wasn't used to its best extent and the isolation aspect wasn't developed enough. It reminded me of another black-and-white film set on an island which is 2019's The Lighthouse and honestly, I believe Eggers' film utilised the idea of isolation much better than Bergman's.
Coming to the second entry into the trilogy, 1963's Winter Light came two years after the first film and I must say this was great! I've discussed a few times before about how I used to be sensitive to the subject of religion in different mediums and that was the case for films yet First Reformed sort of helped me to break free from that. I bring that up not only because Winter Light is a film dealing with religion but also because Bergman's movie was a huge inspiration for Schrader's 2018 film. In fact, there's basically a whole plotline here that was taken or stolen from Winter Light among other details. And yet, I prefer First Reformed by quite a bit.
I can't exactly tell you what's wrong with Winter Light, or at least in my eyes. Sometimes, a film just feels a bit off and that was my experience here. Obviously, I love the film since I gave it a 4 but it is admittedly closer to a 3.5 than a 4.5/5. If I had to come up with something then I guess I'd say that the concept wasn't utilised as well as I hoped it to be. Something that was improved in Schrader's film.
During my viewing of Winter Light, I tried not to compare the two aforementioned films and I didn't do that. Sometimes, First Reformed popped up in my head and I was actually critical of it for basically stealing a bit from Bergman but at the end of the day, I still prefer Schrader's film.
That notion of mine being that this film is a little underdeveloped has been one of my main problems for a few filmmakers, mainly Yasujiro Ozu, but also for Ingmar Bergman. It just sometimes feels like he has these grand creative ideas which aren't executed to the best of its possibilities. Though, nevertheless, I adore Bergman's work. Maybe just not as much as the majority of people as even now, I haven't found a single one of his films to be a perfect 5/5. Fanny and Alexander, Wild Strawberries, and The Seventh Seal came very close but there was always something off; whether that be the runtime, outdated aspects, or underdevelopment.
Overall, Winter Light is a powerful, engaging, and intriguing film from the exceedingly influential and originative filmmaker who is Ingmar Bergman. It wasn't as good as I hoped it to be, however, it still ended up being a great addition to Bergman's filmography.