Winter Light (1963) - full transcript

On a cold winter's Sunday, the pastor of a small rural church (Tomas Ericsson) performs service for a tiny congregation; though he is suffering from a cold and a severe crisis of faith. After the service, he attempts to console a fisherman (Jonas Persson) who is tormented by anxiety, but Tomas can only speak about his own troubled relationship with God. A school teacher (Maerta Lundberg) offers Tomas her love as consolation for his loss of faith. But Tomas resists her love as desperately as she offers it to him. This is the second in Bergman's trilogy of films dealing with man's relationship with God.



Our Lord, Jesus Christ,
on the night He was betrayed...

took bread, gave thanks, broke it,

and gave it unto His disciples, saying,

"Take and eat. This is my Body
which is given up for you.

Do this in remembrance of me."

Likewise he took the cup, gave thanks,

and gave it to them, saying,
"Drink ye all of it.

For this is my blood of the new testament

which is shed for many
for the remission of sin.

Do this, as oft as ye drink it,
in remembrance of me."

Let us now pray together,
even as our Lord Jesus hath taught us.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those
who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory forever.


The peace of God be with you.

O Lamb of God

That takest away the sins of the world

Give us salvation, O merciful Lord

O Lamb of God

That takest away the sins of the world

Hear our prayers, O merciful Lord

O Lamb of God

That takest away

The sins of the world

Grant us peace

And bless our day

Look straight ahead and fold your hands.

The body of our Lord Jesus Christ,
which was given for you.

The body of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The blood of Christ, shed for thee.

The blood of Christ, shed for thee.

The grace and peace of our Lord
Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Go in the peace of the Lord.


Let us pray.

We thank thee, Almighty Father,
who, through Thy Son Jesus Christ,

hast instituted this holy communion
to our consolation and bliss.

We pray thee: Give us grace
so to commemorate Jesus on earth

that we may be partakers
in Thy great communion in heaven.

Give thanks and praise unto the Lord.

Praise and thanks be unto the Lord


Humble your hearts before God
and receive His blessing.

The Lord bless you and preserve you.

The Lord let the light
of His countenance shine upon you,

and be gracious unto you.

The Lord turn His face toward you

and grant you peace.

In the name of the Father, the Son,

and the Holy Ghost.


Yet, dear Lord
I bow down in prayer

Take my hand firmly into Thine

Lead me then, my dearest savior

Take me to the land divine

And where earthly woes are ended

And my course is finally run

Thou wilt take my spirit with Thee

To share eternity in that house of Thine

Time to go home.

- You don't look so good.
- I just need some rest.

Can't Reverend Broms
take the service at Frostnäs?

No, he's taking the new car out for a spin.

- I bet you have the flu.
- My throat's pretty sore.


How did it turn out?
- What?

- Did you find a housekeeper?
- No.

You won't be able to manage
on your own in the long run.

I've managed for five years now.

Why don't you ask Märta Lundberg?

She's dying to help you out.

I'd be glad to ask her.

No, thank you.

- Hello, Pastor Ericsson.
- Hello, Mr. Frövik.

- Hi there, Aronsson.
- Hi, Algot.

How are you? Thanks for the sermon.

Can we help you with something?

No, I thought I might be of service.

Well, there was one thing.

I need to talk to you, Pastor.

I'll be at Frostnäs at 3:00.

And you'll have time to see me?

Of course, after the service.

I'll be at the church an hour beforehand
to turn the heat up.

Will we be using the same hymns?

You don't look well.

I've come down with a cold.

I bet it's the weather. I always...


He has his disability pension
from the railway company

and a pittance for his services
from the church council, I suppose.

You have a visitor.

Mrs. Persson would like to have a word.

I've got to talk to you, Pastor.

Yes, of course.

I'll call you this evening
in case you need a hand.

Thanks, but that's not necessary.

Please have a seat.

Good-bye, Mr. and Mrs. Persson.

You wished to speak to me?


Actually, that's not the whole truth.

Actually, Jonas is the one...

But he won't talk about it,

so this morning I decided we should
come to church and see someone.

You see, we're feeling so lost.

Well, not me so much,

but Jonas is at his wit's end.

Could you talk to him, please?

Of course.

How long have you felt troubled?

It started last spring.
Jonas read about China in the papers.

The article said the Chinese people
were brought up to hate...

and that it's only a matter of time
before China has atom bombs.

They have nothing to lose.
That's what they wrote.

It doesn't worry me all that much.

Maybe I'm just short on imagination.

But Jonas can't stop thinking about it,
and so we discuss it constantly...

though I can't help him much.

Not with three kids and one on the way.


Everyone feels this dread...

to some extent.

We must trust God.

We live our simple daily lives,

and atrocities shatter
the security of our world.

It's so overwhelming,
and God seems so very remote.

That's right.

I feel so helpless.

I don't know what to say.

I understand your anguish...

but life must go on.

Why do we have to go on living?

The pastor's not feeling well.
I shouldn't be bothering you with this.

Besides, we're powerless to do anything.
- Let's discuss it.

That's impossible.

Take me home and then come back.

You and the pastor
need to talk in private.

When can you be back?

- We live ten minutes away.
- I'll see you in 20 minutes.

Promise the pastor you'll be here.

All right, I promise.

Is your car in the parking lot?

Yes, off in the corner.

I'll be expecting you within half an hour.

I'll make sure he comes.

I'll be waiting for you.

I'll be waiting right here.

What a ridiculous image.

Oh, it's you.

Here's something nice and hot.

Oh, I brought coffee with me.

I'm expecting a visitor any minute.

Don't worry. I won't stay long.

It's getting pretty cold out.

Poor Tomas.

What is it, Tomas?
- It wouldn't matter to you.

Tell me anyway.

God's silence.

God's silence?

God's silence.

Jonas Persson and his wife were here,
and I could only spout drivel.

Yet I had the feeling that each word
was decisive somehow.

What am I to do?

Poor little Tomas.

You should be in bed with a brandy.
You're running quite a temperature.

Why did you take communion?

It's a love feast, isn't it?

Did you read my letter?

No. I haven't had the time.

You're hopeless.

When did it arrive?
- Yesterday. It's on my desk...

Read it later when you feel like it.

Another Sunday in the vale of tears.

I don't feel very well.

- Want me to feel sorry for you?
- Yes, please.

Then you'll have to marry me.


You should marry me.


Then I wouldn't have to leave this place.

Why would you have to leave?

As long as I'm a substitute,
I can be transferred.

Far away from you.

We'll see what happens.

Yes, I know.

You can't marry me
because you don't love me.

I've got to go.

Aunt Emma is here,
and she plans to bake a cake.


Yes, Tomas.

What if Mr. Persson doesn't return?

Then you can get some rest
and read my letter.

You don't understand.

Here's the coffee.

Now what?

Poor Tomas. I really mean it.

I'm not being very nice to you.
- You don't say.

You're impossible sometimes.

"God's silence. God won't speak."

God has never spoken
because God doesn't exist.

It's as simple as that.

Now you'll get the flu.

That's fine,
seeing as it's a gift from you.

Would you like me to stay?
- No, that won't be necessary.

You have a lot to learn.

Says the schoolmarm.

You must learn to love.

And you can teach me that?

I can't.

That's not in my power.

He has to show up.

My love.

"We find it difficult
to talk to each other.

We're both rather shy,

and I tend to retreat into sarcasm."

That's why I'm writing.

I have something important to say.

Do you remember last summer

when that awful rash
broke out on my hands?

One evening we were in church
arranging flowers on the altar,

preparing for a confirmation.

Do you recall what bad shape I was in?

My hands all bandaged
and itching so much I couldn't sleep?

The skin had flaked off,
and my palms were like open sores.

We busied ourselves with daisies
and cornflowers, or whatever they were,

and I was feeling irritable.

Suddenly I got mad at you
and challenged you angrily,

asking if you actually believed
in the power of prayer.

You replied that you did.

In a nasty tone,
I asked if you had prayed for my hands,

but it hadn't occurred to you to do so.

I melodramatically demanded
that you do it then and there.

Oddly enough, you agreed.

Your compliance enraged me,
and I tore off the bandages.

You remember the rest.

The sight of those open sores
affected you greatly.

You couldn't pray.

The entire situation disgusted you.

I came to understand you later...

but you never understood me.

We had lived together
for some time at that point.

Almost two years...

which at least represented some capital
in the face of our emotional poverty.

Our caresses...

and our clumsy attempts
to evade the lack of love between us.

When the rash spread
to my forehead and scalp...

I soon noticed how you avoided me.

You found me repugnant...

though you tried to spare my feelings.

Then the rash spread to my hands and feet.

And our relationship ended.

That came as a shock to me.

I had to face the fact...

that we didn't love each other.

There was no way to hide from that fact
or turn a blind eye to it.


I have never believed in your faith.

Mainly because I've never been
tortured by religious tribulations.

My non-Christian family
was characterized by warmth,

togetherness, and joy.

God and Jesus
existed only as vague notions.

To me,
your faith seems obscure and neurotic...

somehow cruelly overwrought with emotion,

One thing in particular
I've never been able to fathom:

your peculiar indifference
to Jesus Christ.

And now I'm going to tell you
about answered prayers.

Laugh if you feel like it.

I don't believe the two are connected.

Life is messy enough

without taking the supernatural
into account.

You were going to pray
for my weeping hands,

but the rash left you
dumbstruck with repulsion,

something you later denied.

I went berserk and tried to provoke you.

Be quiet!

Since you can't pray for me,
I'll do it myself!

God, why have you created me
so eternally dissatisfied?

So frightened, so bitter?

Why must I realize how wretched I am?

Why must I suffer so hellishly
for my insignificance?

If there is a purpose to my suffering,
then tell me.

so I can bear my pain without complaint.

I'm strong.

You made me so very strong
in both body and soul...

but you never give me
a task worthy of my strength.

Give my life meaning,

and I'll be your obedient slave.

This autumn, I realized
that my prayers had been answered.

I prayed for clarity of mind,
and I got it.

I realized that I love you.

I prayed for a task
to apply my strength to,

and I received one.

That task is you.

This is what the thoughts
of a schoolmarm might run to

when the phone refuses to ring,
when it's dark and lonely.

What I lack entirely
is the capacity to show you my love.

I haven't a clue how to do that.

I've been so miserable,
I've even considered praying some more.

But I still have a shred
of self-respect left in spite of it all.

My dearest Tomas...

this turned out to be a long letter.

But now I've put down in writing
what I never dared say

when you were in my arms.

I love you.

And I live for you.

Take me and use me.

Beneath all my false pride
and independent airs,

I have only one wish:

to be allowed to live for someone else.

It's so terribly difficult.

When I think about it,

I can't see
how I will be able to pull it off.

Maybe it's all just a mistake.

Tell me I'm not wrong, darling.

I'm so glad you came.
It's been a long wait.

I'm sorry I'm late.

I didn't mean it as a reproach.

Please, take your coat off.
I've got some nice hot coffee.

No, thank you.

I don't expect you spend
much time at sea this time of year?

We just take short fishing trips.
That's all.

Plenty to do ashore?

Yes, I'm building a new boat
over at Törnström's yard.

An excellent establishment.

I had my own boat built there...

at Törnström's yard.

Do you have money worries?

Forgive me for asking, but things
like that can drive a man to despair.

That's true.

How long have you considered
taking your own life?

I'm not sure.

A long time.

Have you spoken to a doctor?

I mean, are you in good health?

As far as I know.

It's not unusual to...

Do you get along with your wife?

Karin's all right. She's all right.

So it all boils down
to this business about China.

Listen, Jonas.

I'm going to be frank with you.

You know my wife died four years ago.

I loved her.

My life was over.

I'm not afraid to die,

and there was no reason for me to hang on.

But I did.

Not for my own sake,
but to be of some use.

I had great dreams once.

I was going to make my mark on the world.

The sort of ideas you have
when you're young.

I knew nothing of evil or cruelty.

When I was ordained,
I was as innocent as a baby.

Then everything happened at once.

I was a seaman's pastor in Lisbon

during the Spanish Civil War.

I refused to see what was going on.

I refused to accept reality.

My God and I resided in an organized
world where everything made sense.

You see,

I'm no good as a clergyman.

I put my faith in an improbable
and private image of a fatherly god.

One who loved mankind, of course,

but me most of all.

Do you see, Jonas,
what a monstrous mistake I made?

An ignorant, spoiled and anxious wretch
makes a rotten clergyman.

Picture my prayers to an echo-god

who gave benign answers
and reassuring blessings.

Every time I confronted God
with the realities I witnessed...

he turned into something
ugly and revolting.

A spider God, a monster.

So I sought to shield Him from life,

clutching my image of Him
to myself in the dark.

The only person
I showed my god to was my wife.

She supported me,
encouraged me, and helped me.

Patched up the holes.

Our dreams.

I'd better be going.

No, don't go.

I want you to understand
why I talk so much about myself.

So you realize what a wretch I am,
what a poor beggar...

I must be going, or Karin will be worried.

Please stay a little bit longer.

Let's have a nice, calm discussion.

Forgive me for talking
in such a confused manner,

but all this suddenly hit me.

If there is no God...

would it really make any difference?

Life would become understandable.

What a relief.

And thus death would be
a snuffing out of life.

The dissolution of body and soul.

Cruelty, loneliness, and fear...

all these things would be
straightforward and transparent.

Suffering is incomprehensible,
so it needs no explanation.

There is no creator.

No sustainer of life.

No design.


why have you forsaken me?

Now I'm free.

Free at last.

I had this fleeting hope

that everything wouldn't turn out
to be illusions, dreams, and lies.

I have to get ready.

The service at Frostnäs starts at 3:00.

I'm coming with you.


I saw your car, Pastor, so I came over.

Fredriksson's boys found him.

Just down the hill.

It's Jonas Persson.

He shot himself
in the head with his rifle.

The police superintendent is at the scene.

The boys reported it immediately.

I met them on my way here.
They were terrified.

Could you please guard the body
until the van arrives?

Good-bye. Please call me.

Good-bye, Tomas.

Maybe we'll talk this week.
- Do you have any aspirin?

- Sure, and cough syrup, too.
- That might be good.

Come in.

But isn't your aunt visiting?

Wait in the schoolroom, then.
I'll just be a minute.

- Hello.
- Good day.

Whose boy are you?
- The Strands'.

- How old are you?
- Ten.

- What brings you here on a Sunday?
- I left something in my desk.

- What's the dog's name?
- Jim.

Is he yours?


He must be your big brother's,
the one who'll be confirmed this year.


Will you go to confirmation class too?


Why not?

I don't know.

Does your brother find it boring?

I don't know.

Well, good-bye, then.


Hello, Johan. What brings you here?

I left something in my desk.

How's your brother Pelle?

He's much better.
He got out of bed Friday.

He'll be back in school
by the middle of next week.

Good. Give my love to your folks.


Careful, that's hot.
It's really for gargling with.

You dissolve these tablets in hot water.

Auntie gave them to me.
She swears by them.

No, thank you.

My aunt often suffers from sore throats,
and these really help.

Suit yourself. Here's the aspirin.

Would you like some cold water?
- That won't be necessary.

You sound so unfriendly.


Sometimes you sound... as if you hated me.

Take the whole box if you like.
Auntie arrived well-stocked.

Can't I come to Frostnäs with you?

I'm going to the Persson's place.

I can wait in the car.

I thought your aunt baked a cake.

I need some time on my own.

Are you trying to get rid of me?

Don't do this right now.

I don't have the strength.

Why do you want to get rid of me?

My dear little Tomas, you're getting old.

You're dissatisfied with life,
but most of all with yourself.

And here I am throwing myself
in your arms, clouding the issue.

Or am I forcing it?
- You be the judge.

You have your dreams,
and I pay no attention to them.

At times I even despise them.

I should have been kinder.

- Those are just trivialities.
- No, they're not.

You've been unlucky.

I'm so very bossy.
Don't bother contradicting me.

Could you just listen to me?

Sorry, I'm doing all the talking.

I feel humiliated by the gossip.

No one used to pay much attention
to the pastor.

He was simply a fixture,

though no one knew exactly
what he was good for.

Then the rumors began about you and me.

All that tittle-tattle.

So that's your reason?

You don't have to sneer at me.

Marry me, then.


It's hard to plead one's own cause.

Yes, it certainly is.

You can't... You mustn't push me away.

How can you be so blind?

Don't get hysterical.

That's what you always say
whenever you see me crying.

I suppose I am a tad hysterical.

Calm down. Don't alarm your aunt.

I can't hold back the tears.

Just go on talking.
I can still hear your every word.

I thought I'd found a good excuse.

All that stuff
about a pastor's reputation.

But you didn't bite.

And I understand that...

since it was a pack of lies.

The real reason...

is that I don't want you.

Did you hear that?


Of course I did.

I'm tired of your loving care...

your fussing...

your good advice...

your candlesticks and table runners.

I'm fed up with your shortsightedness...

your clumsy hands...

your anxiousness...

your timid displays of affection.

You force me to occupy myself
with your physical condition...

your poor digestion,

your rashes,

your periods,

your frostbitten cheeks.

Once and for all, I have to escape
this junkyard of idiotic trivialities.

I'm sick and tired of it all...

of everything to do with you.

Why didn't you tell me this before?

Because of my upbringing.

I was taught to regard women
as beings of a higher order...

admirable creatures,

unassailable martyrs.

And your wife?

I loved her.

You hear me? I loved her.

And I don't love you,
because I love my wife.

When she died, so did I.

I couldn't care less what happens to me.

Am I making myself clear?

I loved her,
and she was everything you could never be

but insist on trying to be.

The way you mimic her behavior
is such an ugly parody.

I didn't even know her.

I'd better be going...

before I spout even worse bits
of senseless drivel.

Could it get any worse?

Stop rubbing your eyes like that.


Stare all you like.

I can take it.

I can barely see you without my glasses.

You're all fuzzy...

and your face is just a white blob.

You're not really real.

Yes, I see that I did it all wrong

from the beginning.

I've got to go.
I have to talk to Mrs. Persson.

Every time I've hated you,

I've made an effort
to turn it into compassion.

You can't make it on your own.

You won't survive, Tomas dear.

Nothing can save you.

You'll hate yourself to death.

Can't you be quiet?
Can't you leave me alone?

Can't you just shut up?

Would you like to come along?

Do you really want me to?

Or is that fear talking?

Suit yourself. But I'm asking you to come.

Of course I'll come.

I don't have much choice, do I?

Auntie, I'll be back by 6:00.

She must be asleep.
I'll just go check the stove.

Your husband is dead, Mrs. Persson.

They've taken him to the infirmary,
but there's no hope.

He shot himself.

So I'm all alone.

Shall we read from the Bible together?


No, thank you.

I've got to let the children know.

I'll be in all evening
if there's anything I can do for you.

I'll come by sometime this week
to make funeral arrangements.

I spoke to him,
but there was so little I could do.

I'm sure you did what you could, sir.

It was my parents' dream
that I become a clergyman.

Hello there.

Those bells rang for 20 seconds too long.

I was busy replacing the candles.

I usually turn on the bells,
light the candles,

and make it back in time.

But today I bungled it.
An unfortunate mishap.

But those candles were tricky to light.

Probably a factory defect.

And I guess my broken-down body

is slowing down my actions.

The reason hardly matters.

I leave the temple in semidarkness
until just before the bells start.

I believe electric lights
disturb our spirit of reverence.

Don't you agree, Miss Lundberg?

You asked to have a word with me.

Yes, about a rather urgent matter.

Once, when I complained
about my pains keeping me up nights,

you suggested that I read... I remember...

to distract myself.

I began with the gospels.

And real sleeping potions they were, too,
if I may say so,

at least now and then.

Now I've got as far
as the story of Christ's passion,

and it's given me pause.

So I figured I'd discuss it with you,
Pastor Ericsson.

I feel compelled to do so.

The passion of Christ, his suffering.

Wouldn't you say the focus
on his suffering is all wrong?

What do you mean?

This emphasis on physical pain.

It couldn't have been all that bad.

It may sound presumptuous of me,

but in my humble way,

I've suffered as much physical pain
as Jesus.

And his torments were rather brief.

Lasting some four hours, I gather?

I feel he was tormented far worse
on another level.

Maybe I've got it all wrong.

But just think of Gethsemane, Pastor.

Christ's disciples fell asleep.

They hadn't understood the meaning
of the last supper or anything.

And when the servants of the law appeared,
they ran away,

and Peter denied him.

Christ had known his disciples
for three years.

They'd lived together day in and day out,

but they never grasped what he meant.

They abandoned him, down to the last man.

He was left all alone.

That must have been painful...

to realize that no one understands...

to be abandoned
when you need someone to rely on.

That must be excruciatingly painful.

But the worst was yet to come.

When Jesus was nailed to the cross

and hung there in torment,

he cried out,

"God, my God.

Why hast thou forsaken me?"

He cried out as loud as he could.

He thought that his heavenly father
had abandoned him.

He believed everything
he'd ever preached was a lie.

In the moments before he died,
Christ was seized by doubt.

Surely that must have been
his greatest hardship...

God's silence.


No service today. Not a soul turned up.

You don't count.

You belong, so to speak, in the sheep pen.

So, how are you doing?

That pastor you're running after
isn't worth much.

Don't deny it.

You don't think a spinster can be choosy.

Märta, for your own sake,

you can leave this place,
so get out as quickly as you can.

Everything at Mittsunda and Frostnäs
is in the grip of death and decay.

Take me, for instance.

Remember when I used to arrange
musical soirees

on that pile of junk upstairs?

I gave concerts.

And the things Tomas achieved.

People actually attended church.

But his wife was his undoing.

That got your attention, didn't it?

The little woman.

My old galoshes knew human nature
better than Tomas did.

He only had eyes for her.

He was utterly smitten.

So much for their love story.

"God is love, and love is God.

Love proves the existence of God.

Love is a real force for mankind."

You see, I know the drill.

I've been an attentive listener
to the pastor's outpourings.

Bye-bye, you old turtledove.

Get out while you can.

Hello, you tubercular old wheezer.
Don't pass your flu on to me.

Will there be a service?

I don't feel well.

I can see that.

Florence Nightingale is out there,
waiting to minister to your needs.

Personally, I'd like to get some shut-eye.

I'm playing tonight at the Masonic Lodge,
you see.

What's your opinion, Algot?

Don't have one.

I should have known.

I'll go upstairs to the organ.

Algot can give me a sign
when the bells stop ringing.


There's only Miss Lundberg out there.

Guess I shouldn't say "only."

It's time to start the service bell.

That usually brings them in.

If only we could feel safe...

and dare show each other tenderness.

If only we had some truth to believe in.

If only we could believe.

Shall we have the service, then?

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.

The whole earth is full of His glory.