Ingmar Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly (1961) – The Subjectivity of God

“The door opened. But the God that came out was a spider. He came towards me and I saw his face. It was a terrible, stony face…”

Oh, she saw some sort of god alright!?!?!?!?!?

The fiancée/son-in-law/brother-in-law is a blue-balls horndog. The father/father-in-law writes his insecurities about one of his family members into a novel to cope with it. The son/brother is just hormonally confused. And, the daughter/sister is clinically schizophrenic. Did I mention that they all have divergent interpretations of God too based on their drastically contrasting experiences? That’s typical Ingmar Bergman fare for you, ladies and gents!

Through a Glass Darkly brings up such an interesting piece of thought though by the time we reach its demise: we only see certain things in our own way because we’ve experienced life with a particular condition to simplify what is reality and what is fictional. 

Karin is convinced what she sees as God is correct because her quote on quote “mentally ill” yet plausibly tangible, natural-born facets have always fashioned her to see these cruel visions of God as more genuine than imaginary; accepting that these absurdities the she endures as something “authentic” helps justify herself, despite how psychotic she appears to others. This is the God she is convinced she “experiences” in the physical world, and while it may not be the one God tied to typical Christian readings, it is rather a frightening entity powerful enough to punish her for the sins she’s committed — more on the lines of an interpreter of the Bible (like a nun or a priest perhaps?) than the classic example of an all-forgiving God. God seems to actually be vicious in her eyes. 

David, however, sees God as “love” because throughout his life, he has used love to cope with the unusual issues his family struggles with among other things, “big or small”; David’s experience here has defined the entity of a theoretically “positive” God as such because it would justify the ladder to the never-ending pool of pain he receives on a daily basis from these family affairs. From the lenses of the classic beliefs, God is someone who’s meant to be worshiped, for He is the one who can save us. Therefore, love correlates with this idea of God in David’s eyes. David has to work with the groundworks of the archetypal image of God, cause as far as we know, he doesn’t think he has personally seen God like Karin appears to have. 

Essentially, Bergman has gotten all stoner-hipster, agnostic-redditor on the audience again, leaving us with the big question: “what really is a ‘right’ interpretation considering we’re all biased to one based on how we’ve lived and/or how we were born?” 

Existential crisis in bound…

On a side note, Ingmar Bergman’s black-and-white cinematography really leaped after hiring back Sven Nykvist, huh? This is the type of visual f**kery that would make even a modern such as Robert Eggers c*m. Man, it feels good to be back on that Bergman grind.

Verdict: A

Ingmar Bergman Ranked

“Through a Glass Darkly” is now available to stream on HBO Max and The Criterion Channel.

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