Unforgettable Scenes is a feature here at Southern Vision that hasn’t popped up for a few weeks, so I’ve decided to bring it back as I love writing these posts. If you haven’t read any of these before, than the title should be self-explanatory.
This week’s Unforgettable Scene is the Letter scene from Ingmar Bergman’s 1962 film Winter Light. The only one of his films that he was ever really truly happy with, Winter Light is easily one of his top three greatest works, and perhaps the most impressive because it achieves this greatness without glamour, showy visuals or an extravagant plot, simply a situation. Bergman presents us with a situation and leave us to ponder it, hammering home the seriousness of his protagonists’ predicament with dialogue that is sharp and brilliant, at times even terrifying.
There are so many memorable scenes in this short 82 minute film that to pick one is difficult, but when I first saw it there was one scene so incredible, so daring that it stuck in my mind immediately and to this day sends a shiver down my spine to watch. It is startling because of how incredibly long Bergman holds a single, static shot of actress Ingrid Thulin’s face as she reads a letter written by her to the character played by Gunnar Bjornstrand. The letter is savage. It is brutally honest. It speaks volumes about the relationship between her, the volatile atheist and him, the unstable pastor, than I expected, and it is impossible to tear your eyes from the screen. Since the whole scene is just words, there’s really little left for me to say, and I encourage you, whether you’ve seen the film or not, to watch this scene and tell me what you think.