Again the use of light and shadow and how the human face or scenery is viewed is wonderful. The story, the message, however just confused me. I didn’t gather much meaning from watching this family of four. Karin (Andersson) and Minus (Passgard) are sister and brother. Their mother died years ago and their father is always off traveling. Their father, David (Bjornstrand), is now back to visit. He is a writer and is almost done with his latest book. Karin is married to Martin (von Sydow) who takes care of her. Karin is losing her sanity and suffering from delusions. Supposedly her mother suffered from the same affliction, but for Karin it started around the time her mother died and her father started spending large amounts of time away from home. There are slight suggestions that some sexual trauma could be involved. Could incest be in this family’s past? Maybe so, maybe not. Maybe I’m looking for similar themes (the rape in The Virgin Spring) that Bergman didn’t intend. Andersson plays the role of Karin well, bouncing back and fourth between sanity and insanity, in her delusional moments writhing about in pleasure or fear. Her delusions involve God coming to visit her and a room full of good people. Her husband hopes all along that her problems can be managed and that she can live a normal life. Her father is more resigned to the fact that it will get worse before it gets better, if it gets better.
I learned in a DVD special feature that the “artist” is a classic element of a Bergman film. Karin’s father is the artist here. Martin takes moral issue with David using his daughter’s problems as material for the book he is currently finishing. I really don’t get why this is such a big issue and the driving force self-destructing the family in this film. I understand “using” someone for financial gain could be troublesome, but that is what artists do. Artists draw from their life experiences and people they know in creating art. In specific terms this issue could be worse, in abstract terms this isn’t really an issue as presented here. Anyways, the father and son don’t talk much, but at the end they have an abrupt conversation about God being all forms of love. This didn’t leave me feeling complete or hopeful though, since the whole time God was part of Karin’s delusions.
I liked a couple of the lines of dialog though. If there was any meaning I got out of this it was here in these lines. David: “We draw a magic circle and shut out everything that doesn’t agree with our secret games. Each time life breaks the circle, the games turn gray and ridiculous. Then we draw a new circle and build a new defense.” Karin: “Poor little daddy.” David: “Yes, poor little daddy, forced to live in reality.” I think the movie is more about delusion versus reality! And I think the movie is made in such a way as to make the general audience feel confused. Karin: “It’s so horrible to see your own confusion and understand it.” Ultimately, our confusion might help us connect or empathize with Karin.