Through a Glass Darkly (film)

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Through a Glass Darkly
File:Såsom i en spegel.jpg
The original Swedish poster
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Produced by Allan Ekelund
Written by Ingmar Bergman
Starring Harriet Andersson
Gunnar Björnstrand
Max von Sydow
Lars Passgård
Music by Erik Nordgren
Johann Sebastian Bach
Cinematography Sven Nykvist
Edited by Ulla Ryghe
Distributed by Janus Films
Release dates
  • 16 October 1961 (1961-10-16)
Running time
89 minutes
Country Sweden
Language Swedish

Through a Glass Darkly (Swedish: Såsom i en spegel) is a 1961 Swedish film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, and produced by Allan Ekelund. The film is a three-act "chamber film", in which four family members act as mirrors for each other. It is the first of many Bergman films to be shot on the island of Fårö. Fårö is part of Gotland, the largest island in Sweden.

The title is from a Biblical passage (1 Corinthians 13). The Swedish title literally means As in a Mirror which is how the passage reads in a 1917 Swedish translation of the Bible.

Bergman described Through a Glass Darkly as a “chamber film,” an allusion both to the chamber plays of Strindberg (Bergman's favorite playwright) and to chamber music in general. In line with the “chamber” theme, the film takes place in a single 24-hour period, features only four characters and takes place entirely on an island.


The story takes place during a twenty-four hour period while four family members take their vacation on a remote island, shortly after one of them, Karin (Harriet Andersson), is released from an asylum where she has been treated for schizophrenia. Karin's husband Martin (Max von Sydow) tells her father, David, that Karin's disease is almost incurable. Meanwhile, Minus (Lars Passgård), Karin's 17-year-old brother, tells Karin that he wishes he could have a real conversation with his father and cries because he feels deprived of his father's affection. David (Gunnar Björnstrand) is a novelist suffering from "writer's block" who has just returned from a long trip abroad. He announces he will leave again in a month, though he promised he would stay. The others are upset and David gives them unthoughtful, last-minute presents. He leaves them and sobs alone for a moment. When he returns, the others cheerfully announce that they too have a "surprise" for David; they perform a play for him that Minus has written. David, while feigning approval of the play, takes offense since the play can be interpreted as an attack on his character.

That night, after rejecting Martin’s erotic overtures, Karin wakes up and follows the sound of a foghorn to the attic. She faints after an episode in which she hears voices behind the peeling wallpaper. David, meanwhile, has stayed up all night working on his manuscript. Karin enters his room and tells him she can't sleep, and David tucks her in. Minus asks David to come with him out of the house, and David leaves. Karin looks through David's desk and finds his diary, learning that her disease is incurable and that her father has a callous hunger to record the details of her deterioration.

The following morning, David and Martin, while fishing, confront each other over Karin. Martin accuses David of sacrificing his daughter for his art and of being a self-absorbed, callous, cowardly phony. David is evasive but admits that much of what Martin says is true. David says that he recently tried to kill himself by driving over a cliff but was saved by a faulty transmission. He says that after that, he discovered that he loves Karin, Minus and Martin, and this gives him hope.

Meanwhile, Karin tells Minus about her episodes, and that she is waiting for God to appear behind the wallpaper in the attic. Minus is somewhat sexually frustrated, and Karin teases him, even more so after she discovers that he hides a men's magazine. Later, on the beach, when Karin sees that a storm is coming, she runs into a wrecked ship and huddles in fear. Minus goes to her and she grabs him. Though the act is not shown, the film suggests that Karin has sexually seduced her brother.

Minus tells the other men about the incident in the ship and Martin calls for an ambulance. Karin asks to speak with her father alone. She confesses her misconduct toward Martin and Minus, saying that a voice told her to act that way and also to search David's desk. She tells David she would like to remain at the hospital, because she cannot go back and forth between two realities but must choose one. While they are packing to go to the hospital, she runs to the attic where Martin and David observe her actions. She says that God is about to walk out of the closet door, and asks her husband to allow her to enjoy the moment. She becomes fixated on a crack in the wall out of which emerges a spider. The ambulance, a helicopter, flies by the window, making a lot of noise and shaking the door open. Karin moves toward the door eagerly but then she runs from it, terrified, and goes into a frenzy of panic. Karin vanishes and, reappearing in a frenzy, is sedated. When she stands, she tells them of God: an evil-faced spider who tried to penetrate her. She looked into God's eyes, and they were "cold and calm," and when God failed to penetrate her he retreated onto the wall. "I have seen God," she announces.

Karin and Martin leave in the helicopter. Minus tells his father that he is afraid, because when Karin had grabbed him in the ship, he began leaving ordinary reality. He asks his father if he can survive that way. David tells him he can if he has "something to hold on to." He tells Minus of his own hope: love. David and his son discuss the concept of love as it relates to God, and the factor of human father-child relationships in the perception of God, in the stretching final chapter of the film. Minus seems relieved and is tearfully happy that he finally had a real conversation with his father: the film ends with his line, "Papa spoke to me."



The film won the 1962 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.[1] Bergman dedicated the film to his then-wife Käbi Laretei. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 12th Berlin International Film Festival.[2]

In 2008, Roger Ebert added the film to his Great Movies list.[3]


Sarabande from Suite No. 2 in D minor for Cello, BWV 1008, by Johann Sebastian Bach


Through a Glass Darkly is the first film in a trilogy that includes Winter Light and The Silence, and focuses on spiritual issues. Bergman writes, "These three films deal with reduction. Through a Glass Darkly – conquered certainty. Winter Light – penetrated certainty. The Silence – God's silence – the negative imprint. Therefore, they constitute a trilogy."[4] In an interview in 1969 Bergman stated that these three films had originally not been intended as a trilogy, he only regarded them as such in retrospect due to their similarity.[5]

Stage adaptation

In 2004 producer Andrew Higgie persuaded Bergman to allow a stage version of the work, initially intended for a production by Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett at the Sydney Theatre, but Upton relinquished the project to Jenny Worton, dramaturg of the Almeida Theatre, London, where it was presented in July 2010, starring Ruth Wilson in the lead role of Karin.[6][7][8][9]

See also


  1. "The 34th Academy Awards (1962) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 29 October 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. " Awards for Through a Glass Darkly". Retrieved 12 February 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Ebert, Roger. "Through a Glass Darkly". Retrieved 18 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. [Through a Glass Darkly DVD Inner Sleeve]
  5. "Bergman om Bergman", Stockholm 1970
  6. Jury, Louise (25 June 2010). "The curious case of Blanchett and Bergman". Evening Standard. London. Retrieved 29 August 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Billington, Michael (17 June 2010). "Through a Glass Darkly". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 14 July 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Almeida – Through a Glass Darkly". Retrieved 28 August 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Bergman, Ingmar; Worton, Jenny (2010). Through a Glass Darkly. London: Nick Hern Books. ISBN 1-84842-123-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Frank Gado, "The Passion of Ingmar Bergman," Duke University Press, 1986.

External links

Preceded by
The Virgin Spring
Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film
Succeeded by
Sundays and Cybele