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Through a Glass Darkly
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.37:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • Swedish PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Exploring the film: Video discussion with Ingmar Bergman biographer Peter Cowie
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Interview from 2012 with actor Harriet Andersson
  • Introduction by Ingmar Bergman
  • Interview from 2012 with actor Harriet Andersson

Through a Glass Darkly

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
1961 | 89 Minutes | Licensor: Svensk Filmindustri

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $0.00 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #209
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: June 4, 2019
Review Date: June 4, 2019

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SYNOPSIS

While vacationing on a remote island retreat, a family’s fragile ties are tested when daughter Karin (an astonishing Harriet Andersson) discovers her father (Gunnar Björnstrand) has been using her schizophrenia for his own literary ends. As she drifts in and out of lucidity, Karin’s father, her husband (Max von Sydow), and her younger brother (Lars Passgård) are unable to prevent her descent into the abyss of mental illness. Winner of the Academy Award for best foreign-language film, Through a Glass Darkly, the first work in Ingmar Bergman’s trilogy on faith and its loss (to be followed by Winter Light and The Silence), presents an unflinching vision of a family’s near disintegration and a tortured psyche further taunted by the intangibility of God’s presence.


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection upgrades their previous DVD box set A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman to Blu-ray, presenting Through a Glass Darkly on the first dual-layer disc of the three-disc set. The new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a new 2K restoration performed by the Swedish Film Institute, and was scanned from a 35mm interpositive.

This is another upgrade from Criterion where the original DVD wasn’t all that bad to begin with: taken from a then-new high-definition restoration the image was sharp and clean source wise. Still, there should be no surprise of any sort when I say the new 2K restoration used for this release just bests that old DVD in every area. Definition is far better, as one would hope, the image looking razor sharp from beginning to end, allowing for an astounding level of detail in long shots, even in the darker shots in the boat near the end of the film. This improvement in detail over the DVD is notable in the close-up shots when von Sydow’s sweater is in view, the woven pattern appearing much sharper and clearer, where you can even make out the individual threads, which all comes off far more limited and fuzzy on the DVD thanks to its compression.

Black levels and contrast also look better, blacks looking inky without destroying shadow detail. The gray levels transition smoothly as well, giving the picture a more photographic look (aided by the fine film grain that is rendered gorgeously). Restoration work has also cleaned up most of the damage that remained on the DVD, including a slight flicker that could pop up in places, along with a number of marks and scratches. There are still a few bits of dirt that pop up here and there, which ends up sticking out because the film is spotless the rest of the time. There is also the appearance of stray hair on occasion. Those “issues” are easy to overlook, though, and the image comes out looking stunning.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Criterion includes two audio tracks: the film’s original Swedish soundtrack, presented in linear PCM 1.0 mono, and then an optional English-dubbed track, presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono. The English track sounds exactly the same as what was found on the previous DVD. As English dubs go it’s fine, but it’s still weak and tinny, getting pretty harsh during some of the louder moments.

The Swedish track does sound a little better than the DVD’s own presentation, in that it’s sharper and a bit less edgy, but the upgrade isn’t significant. It does manage to be a bit robust with some noticeable range, and it’s also free of damage.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

For their Bergman Trilogy box set Criterion does port over most of the material found on the old DVD edition, while adding a number of new features. Interestingly they seem to front load most of those new features onto this title. One new feature is the inclusion of a 2003 introduction recorded with Bergman by filmmaker Marie Nyeröd while making Bergman Island. Introductions were recorded around this time for television airings of his films and Criterion has been including them on their reissues and new editions for Bergman’s films since. This simple 2-minute one differs from the others (which usually feature the two in a screening room) and primarily features Nyeröd talking about Faro Island and it being featured in Through a Glass Darkly, before it then jumps quickly to the screening room.

Carried over from the DVD is a 2003 interview with film scholar Peter Cowie, who is a regular on most of Criterion’s Bergman releases. During this 11-minute segment Cowie explains why this film and the two other films in this set (Winter Light and The Silence) are considered to be all part of a trilogy, linked by their religious themes (though he admits Through a Glass Darkly doesn’t get even remotely religious until closer to the end). He also talks about how Bergman’s style changed with this film, which led to a drop in the box office. It’s not terribly in-depth (a commentary from Cowie would have been very welcome) but as an introduction to the trilogy you could do a lot worse.

Another new feature is a small excerpt from a 2012 interview with actor Harriet Andersson, filmed at the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä, Finland, where she first jokes about how she was married to a farmer at the time (which she figures is hard for some to imagine) before talking about coming on board to do Through a Glass Darkly. It’s a fun conversation and she has a couple of good stories, including an amusing one about how her stomach wouldn’t stop gurgling during one scene. It runs 8-minutes with some behind-the-scene footage and clips from the film.

Criterion then digs up two audio interviews: one with director of photography Sven Nykvist, done in February of 1981, followed by a 1962 interview with actor Gunnar Bjornstrand performed by Gideon Bachmann at the Berlin Film Festival. Nykvist talks about his career with Bergman, focusing on a select number of films to explain how the two worked together and came up with each film’s look. Winter Light is where Bergman decided he wanted a different look for his films, most of his previous ones having a more polished, almost Hollywood kind of look, and with Winter Light they decided to play more with the lighting and go for a more natural look. Cried & Whispers also offered a challenge, with its intense red backgrounds.

For his interview, Bjornstrand ends up talking mostly about Bergman and his work with him, which is what Bachmann seems most interested in, with Bjornstrand even talking about the yet incomplete trilogy (he mentions he’s not sure what the third film will be like). Eventually Bachmann asks the actor about his career specifically, though they seem to fall back into talking about Bergman again. Despite the lack of focus on Bjornstrand specifically it’s still and engaging discussion. Both interviews run about 15-minutes.

Like the DVD, the disc then closes with the American Janus trailer. The box set’s booklet is also included with this title, first featuring an essay by Catherine Wheatley on the trilogy, followed by a brief excerpt written by Bergman on his struggles with religion and God, taken from his 1987 book, The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography. Though the essay is fine it’s a bit disappointing that Criterion didn’t carry over the individual essays written for each film in the DVD set, which even included a small note by director Vilgot Sjöman on his Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie.

As it stands, though, these new supplements not only make the title a more satisfying release, it helps the set as a whole as well.

7/10

CLOSING

Solid upgrade on all fronts, offering better picture and sound, along with a more satisfying collection of supplements.




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Purchase From:
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