After first seeing this a few years ago (perhaps second Bergman after 7S) I’d largely forgotten the tone, thinking it was a nostalgia trip. Truth is its more all over the place than most people seem to think. So many loose ends (mostly concerning Isak’s parents – remembering them helps him rehabilitate his own parental instincts but his mother is left hung out to dry, and his father is almost completely absent) and his late wife. Religion makes a blurting appearance through the rather ridiculous teens but is dismissed with a wistfully ambiguous poem. The role of the unhappy couple is unclear, especially because they trouble the relationship between intimacy and companionship as elements of a successful marriage. Inclusion of I’s divination of narrative continuity to events is accordingly somewhat frustrating.
What saves it is the narrative flow and the dream sequences, especially the haunting opening and the Rashomon assault on I’s wife. M and I ultimately agreed that WS is unusual for IB because it is best enjoyed as a character study (a short story) and a personal illustration, rather than a thematic meditation (running similarities for me with T’s Mirror, another canonical disappointment). Settling for this reveals a beautiful and drily amusing tale with philosophical clothing rather than entrails. Still, uncomfortably between the direct questioning of Winter Light and the investigative experimentation of Persona. Better than the dour but equally weird Through A Glass Darkly but doesn’t hold a candle to P, WL, 7S or Cries and Whispers (29 June: or Summer With Monika) (29 July: or Fanny and Alexander).