Through a Glass Darkly (Swedish: Såsom i en spegel) is a 1961 Swedish film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, and produced by Allan Ekelund. The film is a three-act “chamber film”, in which four family members act as mirrors for each other. It is the first of many Bergman films to be shot on the island of Fårö.
Through a Glass Darkly concerns a psychologically fragile woman, Karin (Harriet Andersson), who seeks recovery from a nervous breakdown while on a remote-island vacation with her family. Unfortunately, her father (Gunnar Björnstrand), a successful writer, regards her with clinical detachment, her husband (Max Von Sydow), a doctor, feels unavailing in the effort to treat her, and her brother (Lars Passgard) is wrapped up in his own quest for sexual fulfillment. Karin’s descent into further loneliness and delusion exacerbates the heretofore unspoken alienation at the heart of this entire family, and drives the characters to brood over the existence of God (or, in Karin’s case, imagine that God is the chilling spider hidden behind an attic door). Through a Glass Darkly is a heartbreaking, powerful work of art.
The title is from a biblical passage (1 Corinthians 13) in which seeing through a glass darkly refers to our understanding of God when we are alive; the view will only be clear when we die. The Swedish title literally means As in a Mirror, which is how the passage reads in a 1917 Swedish translation of the Bible.
Bergman described Through a Glass Darkly as a “chamber film,” an allusion both to the chamber plays of Strindberg (Bergman’s favorite playwright), and to chamber music in general. In line with the “chamber” theme, the film takes place in a single 24-hour period, features only four characters and takes place entirely on an island.