That Dude in Your European Cinema Class with the Backwards Baseball Cap Reviews: "Winter Light" by Ingmar Bergman

Scandinavia is a country famous for many things but especially hot blonds, cold vodka, and the masterpiece movies of Ingmar Bergman.  Winter Light is one such masterpiece and like a lot of the other movies we saw this term it is really slow and super depressing.  Seeing it made me really thankful for how much more awesome films are today. Basically the movie is about a priest who is having a really bad day.  It starts out with him doing a sermon that goes on, like, forever, and then we have to watch him give communion to every single person in the church—both the wafer AND the wine!  This is what I mean about filmmakers in the olden times not really understanding how to make good movies.  Today you could do this scene by having the camera swoop down from the sky and into the church and down through the aisle to zoom in on him sticking a wafer in some dude’s mouth—it would show us where we are at and who the priest is and what’s up in like 10 seconds tops.  But maybe audiences back then weren’t as sophisticated as we are today so they needed to see everything acted out for them.  Or maybe the movie wasn’t long enough for Scandinavian cable or something and Bergman needed to pad it out a bit.  Who can know?

Anyway, after the priest is done with the sermon, a married couple comes to visit him because the husband is all freaked out about the Chinese being mean and having bombs and maybe blowing up the world.  The priest tries to tell the guy to chill but doesn’t have much luck and so they decide to meet in about an hour to try again.  Then the priest’s girlfriend comes in and starts ragging on him about getting married (priests in Scandinavia can get married).  But the priest doesn’t want to because he is all obsessed that God won’t talk to  him—like God has nothing better to do than talk to this guy who doesn’t really seem to be a very good priest anyway (at one point he looks at Jesus and calls him ridiculous.  As if!).  At any rate, the girlfriend leaves behind a letter and pretty soon the priest is reading that letter.  Here things get really weird.  Rather than hear the letter in the priest’s brain as he reads it like we normally would, we get the girlfriend staring right into the camera and reading it out loud even though she is no longer there in the church anymore.  So where is she?  And who is she looking at? And when did this happen?  We don’t know.  Again, I think a better filmmaker would have shown us all the crap she talks about in her letter rather than just have her talk about it right into the camera for all that time.  It could be that even though this is a masterpiece maybe Bergman ran out of money at one point and didn’t have time to shoot anything more interesting.

After she reads the letter (which like the sermon goes on and on and on, in this case about a really gnarly rash she once had), the guy who is all worked up about the Chinese bombs comes back.  They talk some more but then the priest makes a really bad decision, at least in my opinion.  He tells the depressed guy that God probably doesn’t exist and that he would be happier if he just forgot about all the shit he worries about all the time.  The strange thing is this seems to make the priest happier than the guy depressed about China and before you know it he’s back out in the church making out with his girlfriend (the priest, not the other guy—who leaves and goes home).  They’re still making out when this old lady comes in and tells them that the depressed guy just shot himself with a rifle down by the river!  He’s totally dead!  And it was like only a few minutes ago he had been right there talking to the priest!

Weirdly the priest doesn't seem too surprised by this.  So he drives over and looks at the body and waits around for a van to come pick it up.  Then his girlfriend shows up again and they decide to drive over to her house where she is a schoolteacher.  All of a sudden the priest really lets her have it and tells her how awful and pathetic she is and how he has no interest in hooking up with her.  This also seemed stupid to me because from what I could see of this town, his girlfriend is probably the best thing going lookswise, so beggars shouldn’t be choosing.  Anyway, for some reason she still sticks around even after taking all that shit from him and they drive over to the suicide-guy’s house to tell his wife he shot himself with a rifle.  You would think this would be a big deal but no one even cries or anything, which we know from other movies is a totally unrealistic way to react to your husband eating a shotgun.

Once they get that over with, the priest and his girlfriend drive over to another church to do another sermon.  But when they get there they find no one in the town even bothered to show up (except for a couple of guys who have to be there because it's their job anyway).  One of those guys who turns out to play the organ is a little drunk and tells the girlfriend she should get the hell out of the town before she gets to be as big a dick as her priest-boyfriend.  Then they all talk about whether or not they should still do the sermon seeing as no one is there.  But the priest decides to go for it anyway, which is like totally crazy and made no sense because they could have all gone home at that point and done some Jager shots or something to warm up.   And then just when he’s starting to do the sermon, the film just stops. That’s it.  It’s all over.  Again, I think this is bad filmmaking on Bergman’s part—he should have cut the sermon at the beginning of the film in half and then used the other half here to end it.  That would have made for a snappier opening and less of a “go F yourself” ending.

In many respects this movie made me think about Hamlet who we read about in my English class and who also lived in Scandinavia.  He also spent a lot of time walking around not doing much of anything but looking at skulls and wondering what the hell the point of everything is.  So maybe that’s just what people in Scandinavia enjoy doing. But in my opinion they would probably all be better off if they lived somewhere else that had more sunshine. For example, in Winter Light the priest has the flu and everyone else is coughing and hacking all the time and the wind is always blowing snow everywhere.  In one shot you do see the sun coming through a window for a moment but I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to see that or if it was just some bad lens flare.

Even if they couldn’t live somewhere else, these people all should probably at least take a vacation or something to catch some sweet rays and cheer up a bit.  Like last year when I was taking a philosophy class we spent a lot of time thinking about what the point of everything is and other even more ridiculous bullshit besides.  About that time my own girlfriend dumped me and then my demo reel for the Real World came back completely unopened—like they didn’t even bother to look at it, and I was starting to think, what IS the point?   But then me and my bros went to Cancun for Spring Break and got in some major boogie board action. When we got back I realized philosophy was for losers who don't have anything better to do and that the professor was kind of a dickwad for making us think about all this shit we can’t do anything about anyway.  Which I guess is what the priest tries to tell the guy depressed about China but, in the end, he didn’t listen.

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