Bart Testa is a senior lecturer at Innis College and the Cinema Studies Institute at the University of Toronto. Preceding the film, he will deliver a keynote lecture (c. 50 mins) on the silence of God in Bergman’s cinema.
Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand, Max von Sydow, Gunnel Lindblom,
Winter Light is the central film in Bergman’s so-called “God trilogy” (with Through a Glass Darkly and The Silence). Gunnar Björnstrand plays the doubting Tomas, pastor of a dwindling rural parish. Tomas is an isolated individual, haunted by “God’s silence” and indifferent to the physical, whether in the person of the schoolmistress Märta (Ingrid Thulin) or Christ himself. When a local fisherman (Max von Sydow) comes to him stupefied by fear of the atom bomb, Tomas cannot meet his gaze. The film’s spare style, which prefigures the modernist Persona, is one of gazes and avoidances, and the visual articulation of contradiction: bathed in bright winter light, Tomas becomes free from God. The trilogy, as Bergman has stated, “is not concerned with God or His absence . . . but with the saving force of love.” But to take the lead, and not wait for God to show love, is the most difficult task for a Bergman persona.