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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • Swedish Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Exploring the film: Video discussion with Ingmar Bergman biographer Peter Cowie
  • Essay by Peter Cowie
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Optional English-dubbed soundtrack

Winter Light


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Gunnar Björnstrand, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnel Lindblom, Max von Sydow, Allan Edwall
1963 | 81 Minutes | Licensor: Svensk Filmindustri

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $79.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #210
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: August 19, 2003
Review Date: June 5, 2019

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SYNOPSIS

"God, why did you desert me?" With Winter Light, master craftsman Ingmar Bergman explores the search for redemption in a meaningless existence. In this stark depiction of spiritual crisis, small-town pastor Tomas Ericsson (Gunnar Björnstrand) performs his duties mechanically before a dwindling congregation. When he is asked to assist with 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 uncertainty. Beautifully photographed by Sven Nykvist, Winter Light is an unsettling look at the human craving for personal validation in a world seemingly abandoned by God.

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PICTURE

The second disc in Criterion’s box set A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman presents Winter Light in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Presented on a single-layer disc, the standard definition presentation comes from a high-definition restoration scanned from a 35mm fine-grain master positive. Because of the aspect ratio the film has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Similar to Through a Glass Darkly, the previous film in the set, Winter Light delivers a strong visual presentation that has managed to hold up rather well through the years. The restoration work has been surprisingly thorough and damage is limited primarily to a few minor scratches and specs of dirt, along with a mild fluctuation that is noticeable from time to time.

Even the digital presentation holds up well when upscaled. Details aren’t as clearly defined as they probably could be, but compression is still nicely managed other than a couple of grainier looking shots (where the image can become very noisy) it can have a fairly decent filmic look, at least as good of one as you can expect from the format.

Contrast can be a little iffy, and the image can come off a little too dark where the blacks eat up detail. Outside of that, though, gray scale is adequately rendered, and whites still come off looking good without any sign of blooming. It could be better (and a new Blu-ray edition clearly outdoes it) but they still did a rather spectacular job on it and as mentioned before it still looks good today.

7/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film receives two audio tracks, both delivered in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono: the film’s original Swedish track and an alternate English-dubbed track. Like the other films in the set the Swedish track has obviously received more of the work and it comes off sounding best. The track is clear with no severe problems. It can be flat and it lacks fidelity, but it’s perfectly acceptable for the film.

The English dub isn’t bad for what it is: impressively it can still feel pretty organic to the film, even if the lips don’t always match what is being said. Even then it’s received little to no work, can come off edgy and distorted, and background noise is more audible. It’s also even flatter than the Swedish track. At the very least dialogue is still easy to hear.

Though I feel most will stick to it anyways I would say the Swedish track is the one to go with.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The box set this film comes in, A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman, is a lovely looking set but it is disappointingly slim on features, with each film in the set only receiving a couple of extras. The big one on here is another interview with film scholar Peter Cowie, a regular on Criterion’s Bergman releases. In this 10-minute interview 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 working on Bergman’s films and I remember Cowie’s comments in here on Bergman’s own personal issues with religion and faith helped me understand the director a bit more, so I definitely appreciated this at the time (though other features and documentaries found on other releases expanded more on this).

The disc then closes with the Janus theatrical trailer, and an insert featuring an essay by Peter Cowie has also been included, focusing a bit more on the film and its themes in comparison to his interview.

Again, the supplements have always been disappointing for this set. Technically, the set does also feature the making-of documentary Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie, covering the making of Winter Light, but still, on an academic level this title and the set overall are severely lacking.

3/10

CLOSING

Supplements are still severely lacking and are especially disappointing now. But the audio/video presentation still holds up, looking decent for the format.


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