Archive for October 31st, 2018


© 2018 by James Clark

 Our film today is, even by the standards of Bergman’s shoot-out-all-the-lights iconoclasm, over the top. Whereas his other films hop to it to embed, near the beginning, uncanny startlements sending out for those on the wild side a shot in the arm for the duration, Winter Light (1962)—its very title a threat to creativity—dares us to keep viewing a tedious melodrama dribbling toward soap opera.

Of course, those few who have found their way to the mother lode of the work’s endeavor, could apply the acrobatics and impossible juggling apparent in absentia. But there is no getting past the thunderous deadness on display, seemingly intent on entrenching an insurrection. Thereby, the viewer has been obliged to muster tons of patience toward the bad old days, in the expectation that this nightmare will end. And end it does, but only at the narrative’s very last scene, where a meek hunchback sexton, Algot, takes aside the reigning clergyman, Tomas, and tells of his discovery that the Bible’s real sense pertains to one sensibility, Jesus, whose sensual virtuosity was never grasped by anyone as realizing that the spirit driving it all has nothing to do with human immortality. After hearing this mountainous and—from the point of view of exegesis, totally daft—heresy, the pastor finds it right on! The only thing left to do with Bergman’s structural acrobatics here is to go back to the beginning in order to savor the singular passion of Tomas.

Let’s start, though, with Algot’s surprising and incisive amateurism. We hear him first, not as a revisionist metaphysician but fussing about his prosaic caretaker duties, which almost magically manage to run to poetry—no small accomplishment, in the wake of our being pelted, over the preceding hour, with routine disappointments. “Those bells rang for twenty seconds too long. Unfortunately I was busy replacing the candles” (seen on-screen to be disorderly but still a feast for sore eyes in the dark church). “ I usually turn on the bells, light the candles and make it back on time. But today I bungled it. An unfortunate mishap. But those candles were tricky to light,” [trickiness being a trope for this campaign—particularly in view of the virtual impossibility of reaching another, importantly; reaching, in a process of “juggling” between prose and poetry, on a basis of uncanny sensual timbre, “acrobatics,” reaching a startling level in the form of Elisabet’s ceasing to speak, in Persona [1966]]. The sexton continues his generous lament, with, “Probably a factory defect,” [the trick that matters not apt to be found on an assembly line]. “And I guess my broken-down body is slowing down my actions. The reason hardly matters.” You’d have to say his broken-down body is doing very well. But “reason,” and its factoids, are—stellar results, notwithstanding— not doing well in their imperial guidance. “I leave the temple in semi-darkness until just before the bells start… I believe electric lights disturb our spirit.” (Algot, an impressive practitioner of “spirit,” would have spent long hours about the timbres of fire and the timbres of electricity. Perhaps his reading of the latter has compromised something new and useful as to “juggling.”) (more…)

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