February 11, 1963 — Ingmar Bergman’s Winter Light premieres in Sweden.
"Well, it was a difficult film, one of the hardest I’ve made so far. The audience has to work. It’s a progression from Through a Glass Darkly, and it in turn is carried forward to The Silence. The three stand together. My basic concern in making them was to dramatize the all-importance of communication, of the capacity for feeling. They are not concerned—as many critics have theorized—with God or His absence, but with the saving force of love. Most of the people in these three films are dead, completely dead. They don’t know how to love or to feel any emotions. They are lost because they can’t reach anyone outside of themselves.
"The man in Winter Light, the pastor, is nothing. He’s nearly dead, you understand. He’s almost completely cut off from everyone. The central character is the woman. She doesn’t believe in God, but she has strength; it’s the women who are strong. She can love. She can save with her love. Her problem is that she doesn’t know how to express this love. She’s ugly, clumsy. She smothers him, and he hates her for it and for her ugliness. But she finally learns how to love. Only at the end, when they’re in the empty church for the three o’clock service that has become perfectly meaningless for him, her prayer in a sense is answered: he responds to her love by going on with the service in that empty country church. It’s his own first step toward feeling, toward learning how to love. We’re not saved by God, but by love. That’s the most we can hope for.” — Ingmar Bergman, 1964
"I think I have made just one picture that I really like, and that is Winter Light. That is my only picture about which I feel that I have started here and ended there and that everything along the way has obeyed me. Everything is exactly as I wanted to have it, in every second of this picture. I couldn’t make this picture today; it’s impossible; but I saw it a few weeks ago together with a friend and I was very satisfied.” — Ingmar Bergman, 1972
Winter trees cough like old men about death’s white nightmares while the rain talks in Latin. They cough about the sobbing tragic ash, they bind valises for leaving, they darken—and in the chill of frost from the sun, the lungs bristle to see coffins hidden in the dry capes of kings.
She knew if she loved him she could make him happy, but she didn’t. Or she did, but it sank into itself like a hole and curled up content. Surrounded by the blur of her own movements, the thought of making him happy was very dear to her. She moved it from place to place, a surprise she never opened. She slept alone at night, soul of a naked priest in her sweet body. Small soft hands, a bread of desire rising in her stomach. When she lay down with the man she loved and didn’t, the man opened and opened. Inside him an acrobat tumbled over death. And walked thin wires with nothing above or below. She cried, he was so beautiful in his scarlet tights and white face the size of a dime.
“The figure should be natural and relaxed,” asserted Mucha to his drawing class, but didn’t tell that he bent the Job girl’s fingers back into a knuckle-breaking arabesque and thereby crossed her smile with a wince, or how his son complained of feeling deformed after sitting for his father. The truth is that beauty pursued from a single angle has never added to a person’s comfort.
Who’s to say where the man ends, the world begins; what it is that wakes him in a visible sweat, a thing shored on a tide of linen, though this much is clear: as sleep drags its intimate figures back into the blackened current, a magnificent loneliness takes its place. Then he looks up and sees his likeness astonished
into the mirror above him, a ghost afloat in the elated room, flat to the ceiling and pinned there. Who wouldn’t feel uneasily blessed, to hover that way with your bed on your back, bearing up under the weight of heaven, made glorious in the ruffled wingspan of your sheets. And with a blinding adoration to gaze down at your own nakedness,
cast out of the living skin, impatient to descend, jealous, as is the way with phantoms, of every body your body touches. You know the sensation: as if your flesh were the drinking glass forever chilled and gaping. Perhaps you see your story float in the open hands of a book, thinking how distant the details
where they waver, how cold and fragile in their clarity. You are the breath flown out of them, hovering there, reading softly, the way a mother reads to a child at night. And like the child you savor every minute, every grief that turns to pity, that leans to the mirror’s body to drink, becoming water.