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Winter Light
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
  • Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie, a five-part documentary by Vilgot Sjöman made for Swedish television during the production of Winter Light
  • Audio interview from 1962 with actor Gunnar Björnstrand
  • Introduction by Ingmar Bergman

Winter Light

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
1963 | 81 Minutes | Licensor: Svensk Filmindustri

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $0.00 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #210
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: June 4, 2019
Review Date: June 5, 2019

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SYNOPSIS

“God, why hast thou forsaken me?” With Winter Light, Ingmar Bergman explores the search for redemption in a meaningless existence. Small-town pastor Tomas Ericsson (Gunnar Björnstrand) performs his duties mechanically before a dwindling congregation, including his stubbornly devoted lover, Märta (Ingrid Thulin). When he is asked to assuage a troubled parishioner’s (Max von Sydow) debilitating fear of nuclear annihilation, Tomas is terrified to find that he can provide nothing but his own doubt. The beautifully photographed Winter Light is an unsettling look at the human craving for personal validation in a world seemingly abandoned by God.


PICTURE

Disc two of Criterion’s 3-disc Blu-ray Blu-ray box set A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman (upgrading their pervious DVD edition) presents Winter Light in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition encode is taken from a new 2K restoration, scanned from the 35mm original camera negative.

Though it’s a close call between this film and The Silence I have to say this is probably the best-looking presentation in the set. Though the original DVD from 2003 certainly didn’t (and still doesn’t) look bad, limited a bit by source condition and the standard-definition format itself, the improvements found here over that edition are significant, with the biggest improvement being the crispness of the image and the level of detail to be found in it. It’s now to a point where you can even make out pores on the faces of the actors, even in long shots, and contrast has also been leveled out a bit where you can now more clearly make out details in the darker areas of the screen, like the central character’s robe. The image is incredibly sharp, also rendering the film’s very fine grain perfectly; it’s very fine and admittedly barely registers with the viewer, outside a handful of shots, but it’s there and looks natural.

The film has also been further restored, blemishes found in the old presentation appearing to be gone, and the fluctuations that appeared in that old presentation have been leveled out and the film runs smooth and clean. It’s a spectacular looking upgrade and the nicest surprise in the set.

9/10

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 the film’s original Swedish soundtrack, delivered in lossless PCM 1.0 mono, and an alternate English-dubbed soundtrack, delivered in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono. The Swedish soundtrack does offer a notable improvement over the DVD’s presentation, sounding a bit sharper with more depth and range, managing to hide its age well. It’s a quiet film, of course, so it never really pushes the envelope, but it’s fine for what it is.

The English-dub sounds exactly the same as what was used on the DVD, and I have no doubt it’s a direct port. Though English dialogue is clear enough the track is tinny and harsh, with more prominent background noise.

The Swedish one is obviously the one to go with.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion upgrades their box set A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman and manages to carry most everything over from that set, though since there was so little to begin with that shouldn’t have been too hard a job. Criterion does add quite a bit of new material to the set, though they front loaded most of it to the first title, Through a Glass Darkly. Outside of a 3-minute introduction featuring Bergman (part of a series of introductions filmed with the director for television airings of his films in 2003 by filmmaker Marie Nyeröd) Winter Light doesn’t receive anything new. Criterion does include the 5-episode, 146-minute television documentary on the making of Winter Light, Vilgot Sjöman’s Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie on this disc, which was originally featured on its own on the fourth disc of the DVD set (complete with its own DVD case and spine number, #212, which is missing from this set, something that might irk completists). As a making-of documentary it never really rises above others of its type but getting such an intimate portrait of Bergman and how he goes about developing a film is still priceless. Each of the five parts cover a specific aspect of the production (with the last part being a straight interview between Bergman and Sjöman about the release and experience), we get to see development and pre-production before moving onto the actual filming, watching Bergman work with his actors (though Sjöman admits in an essay included with the DVD but not in this set that these were staged by Bergman specifically for the documentary). The best portion, though, covers post-production, where Bergman talks about how he constructs his films and the editing process. Again, I didn’t find it to be constructed in a particularly original, or even interesting way, but I enjoyed watching Bergman work and listening to him go through his process in an almost step-by-step manner.

The documentary has been broken up into five chapters, one for each part, dropping the individual chapters found on the DVD within each episode. The same master used for the DVD has also been used here, so it’s basically a video presentation and it still looks rough.

The aforementioned introduction with Bergman features the director explaining why Winter Light is his favourite film (there was a quote found in an insert of the old DVD set that went over this) and then the remaining features have been ported over from the DVD. The same 10-minute interview with scholar Peter Cowie, a regular on Criterion’s Bergman releases, is presented yet again. Cowie talks about how Bergman drastically changed his style with this film, which he admits threw him off initially, finding the film to be “not as technically impressive.” He realized, though, that Bergman was going for something that felt more real. He also talks about the film’s theme on “crisis of faith” and despite the film obviously being centered around Christianity Bergman still manages to make the film universal. I first saw this film when I was just really going through Bergman’s films and Cowie’s comments here on Bergman’s own personal issues with religion and faith helped me understand the director and these films a bit more (other features and documentaries I came across later would expand on all of this, though). Good for newcomers to the films.

The disc then closes with the Janus theatrical trailer. The set comes with a booklet (included with Through a Glass Darkly) but the essay written by Peter Cowie found in the original DVD’s insert has not been carried over. Same goes for Sjöman’s short essay that covered his documentary.

Unfortunately, outside of the intro (and moving the making-of onto this disc) Criterion doesn’t include anything new and specific to the film.

6/10

CLOSING

The supplements are still a bit of a let down but the video presentation provides an incredible improvement over the DVD’s presentation.




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