Monday, September 28, 2009


More important than Why hast thou forsaken me?, why did Jonas brood so much over atom bombs being made by heathens as to commit suicide? Why did he start getting troubled over injustice and by his observations that God is apparently not doing anything in retribution, in recompense? Nattvardsgästerna (international title: Winter Light) is a beautiful film by Ingmar Bergman, most of the film a close-up of human faces and human frailties, and a stunning indictment of a sickening malaise: Christianity. It also asks questions about the existence of God and whether we should be even worried about if God exists or not. Should we not be better human beings instead of shutting ourselves inside dark recesses born out of custom and vocation and ritual and years of beliefs that seemed permanent, that seemed bulwark?

I like the simplicity in which Bergman made the film; except a boy sleeping during sermon and the organ player himself, the whole film is non-judgemental of anything; it just observes, shows, and thus asks the viewer his own questions. Even the questions are the viewer's. There are several provoking situations, dialogues, darknesses: a man kept on performing miracles yet didn't do any to save his life? If only to take the sins, then why the final cry of despair and doubt that oh Lord why hast thou forsaken me? Christ hung on the crucifix: why this emblem? In outward garb just showing the moment when he died for sins committed by man, then why not rather a symbol of an empty cave or the Ascension, a more promising and hopeful symbol? Or is it because it would be easy to make heathens believe in the goodness of a man who could die upon crucifix, forgetting that it was the punishment of the times (choosing to forget). What Godard calls shot and countershot in Notre Musique. Establish the countershot of Jesus hanging on crucifix; the rest becomes a relief, forming the shot.

Bergman also slides in a very interesting thought somewhere inside: love is the undoing of religion. Wouldn't the pastor have returned content with his administered communions to the woman he loved; maybe even if the woman looked at him with a question in his eyes; had not the woman died? That is what probably Märta doesn't do, and the pastor despises her even after using her body to try to wash his sins. Shot in close-ups throughout, the film only deviates in one long sequence into a hazy wide shot: when the pastor is in action, on the spot with Jonas' body, and a little far thus from his otherwise constant internal struggle. Why? Even if I don't find the why, since there could be many and my why might be different from Bergman's, it is beautiful. I find it beautiful. The rawness of the world which is laying and has laid out impressions on man's soul captured not being objective at all; and while man now struggles with his conscience, again eliminating the objective by filling the whole frame this time with the nothingness of a man's face, his impassive face. Or Märta's kind, sad eyes. Or the hate of living in an unbearable world in Jonas' eyes. Or the hate of weariness and the anticipation of more weariness in a world not understood, not wanted to be understood in Jonas' wife's face. Or the light of bitterness and realization in the sexton's face. Or the "ridiculous" image of the dangling Jesus in the pastor's eyes.

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