“Winter Light” – Chris Luedtke

I fear as though this review is going to be as barren as the surroundings in Winter Light. Films are an experience, and what I’m supposed to tell you is whether or not this was a good experience. It certainly wasn’t a happy one, but given the context of the plot, I didn’t expect to see rays of sunshine glisten off of the faces of a small village on seemingly large supplements of Prozac (which if you have some handy, you might want to consider a few tabs for this one) while they frolic through lollipop fields; that would be absurd.

What’s the result? If you’re familiar with director Ingmar Bergman’s faith trilogy, then you should know the drill. Winter Light is the tale of a small town pastor named Tomas Ericsson (Gunnar Björnstrand), who has lost his faith, believing that God has taken a sort of permanent silence. During his troubled time, he is asked to consult Jonas Persson (Max von Sydow), who is having heavy thoughts of suicide.

The rains pour in Winter Light. Everywhere we turn, there is nothing but a cold, empty look, a perfect set up. The introductory service feels uninspired, as Tomas goes about instilling faith in those who have come to worship, but everyone’s face is blank and on the brink of sleep. Through all this, we get a feeling of abandonment. We wonder why these people stay here, why they wouldn’t try to fill the emptiness that surrounds them. But the only thing that fills them once they step from their bare-bones homes is the cold, dead winter wasteland. Perhaps staying here is all an act of desperation or the desire to remain unchanged and comfortable in the misery.

Not much can be said about the characters except that they’re all melancholy. The surroundings have worn off on the characters, in addition to past events and present problems. The energy surrounding them is lacking but suiting. Tomas wears his loss of faith on his sleeve, although most don’t seem to notice. His would-be love interest Ingrid Thulin (Märta Lundberg) chases him about and nags at him to lighten up, but even she suffers through her vain attempts at trying to brighten the world around her.

When all is said and done, not much can really be said overall. Winter Light is simply driven by emotionally disturbed characters, with a thin story that’s based around them. When the film finally ended, I sat there and shrugged my shoulders. The note it left me on wasn’t one that made my jaw drop; it just kind of left me like the energy left the characters. It’s a good film for some character study and should be noted for its realism, but it’s not an awe-inspiring experience. Other films have done just as much with depression and loss and had much more profound impacts.

Rating: ★★★☆

-Chris Luedtke

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