Winter Light (The Communicants), Igmar Bergman [1963]

I return to Bergman because he is not afraid to approach tough topics.

I return to Bergman because in his wrestling with life’s toughest issues – he pulls his audience into the fray with him.

We struggle alongside the characters of this cinematic play.

Winter Light (The Communicants) is one of three films in which Bergman wrestles with existential issues and the issue of faith: in God; and in one another (the other films: “Through a Glass Darkly”; “The Silence”).

The film opens in a (dying) church – it’s congregation whittled down to a handful of faithful. All desperately in need for answers. They turn to God. And all struggle with the silence.

Here are the communicants in the opening church service sequence.


Facing us is Pastor Tomas Ericsson (Gunna Bjornstrand) has has been struggling with his faith since his wife died two years ago.

Those with their backs to us range in their belief in God from non-belief (far left) to devoutly religious (far right).

Max von Sydow plays Jonas Persson (center) who is wrestling not only with his Christian belief – but also the cold war dilemma of potential mass destruction as China announces plan to develop atomic weapons.

Below, at the urging of his wife, Persson has come to the church for counsel from his pastor. Bergman injects Christ into the fram giving us a 3 shot with Christ turning away from von Sydow’s character.



Pastor Tomas feels a pain in “God’s silence.” Though Christ appears to be right there in front of him; the voice of God seems very far away.

Nattvardsgästerna (1963) Filmografinr: 1963/03

Tomas’ mistress Marta (Ingrid Thulin) leaves him a long letter spelling out her feelings and expectations. Bergman gives us a 6 minute presentation of it’s contents as one continuous close up.


The film is sparse. Bergman gives us stark, gritty, icy surroundings.

The first glimpse outdoors (20 minutes or so into the film) we feel the draft and the severity of the struggle these characters are facing.

There is anguish in each of their faces.
All desperately in need for answers.

They turn to God.
And all struggle with the silence.

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