On the screen, yellow September

Image: Sam


“Winter Light”, a film by Ingmar Bergman, contemplates suicide

Ending September, in the company of Ingmar Bergman’s lenses, we focused on “Winter Light”. In the cinematic dialogue, we are led to leaf through The myth of Sisyphus, essay on the absurd, by Albert Camus: “There is only one really serious philosophical problem: it is suicide. Judging whether or not life is worth living is answering the fundamental question of philosophy.”

In absurd contexts, humans produce meanings about their existence. Capturing them is the task of a comprehensive sociology. Jonas Persson, in his despair, asks: “Why do we have to keep living?” Anguished and disturbed, Ingmar Bergman's character is uneasy about how the Chinese atomic bombs will be used. In the early 1960s, the shadow of a military confrontation between the great world powers of that historical moment generated individual and collective apprehensions.

Political disappointments as one of the driving factors for suicidal ideation. These are not exclusive to medical specializations. Émile Durkheim opens sociological perspectives on selfish, altruistic and anomic suicides. “The social element of suicide”, from a Durkheimian perspective, analyzes “how the suicide rate varies depending on different social concomitants”. In a historical situation of uncertainty, Jonas experiences existential helplessness. Without answers to his concerns, he finds no anchors to integrate him into a society of conflicts and turbulence.

Not even religion, in his pastor’s “crisis of faith”, responds to his anguish and disturbance. In the “silence of God”, subjectified by Vicar Tomas Ericsson, Jonas Persson explains the sensation of divine distance: “God seems so far away”. In evocation of the biblical ordeal of Christ, Reverend Tomas explains the agony of his tormented interlocutor: “My God, why have you abandoned me?” Pastor Tomas’ voice: “if god doesn’t exist, would it really make any difference?”

“Do you have a problem with money?” “Have you spoken to a doctor yet? I mean, are you healthy?” “Do you get along well with your wife?” These questions are asked by Vicar Tomas Ericsson to the anguished Jonas Persson, tormented by the idea of ​​ending his own life.

We are faced with a dramatic scene of winter light (1962), film directed by a cinematographic thinker: Ingmar Bergman. We are multidimensional. Our needs are not limited to material demands. Our thirsts and hungers are varied. We lack bread and poetry. Economic needs are part of a set of other human demands. In addition to searching for food, our hunts are multiple. From jobs to affections, we continue trying to satisfy our desires.

The questions previously formulated by Reverend Ericsson reveal the complexity of the suicide theme, exposed in Ingmar Bergman's film text. A dense read to broaden our perspective on the meanings of suicidal actions. These provoke the most diverse discourses. In winter light, the filmmaker dialogues with the human and social sciences, especially philosophy and sociology.

Psychiatric discourse is one, among other discursive practices issued about those who give up on life. From cinematographic works to everyday observations, we are encouraged to think of suicides as consequences of a combination of factors. Therefore, philosophical and sociological speeches, in addition to medical ones, contribute to broadening our understanding.

“God’s silence in the face of man’s bestialities.” A question for Ingmar Bergman, “a restless investigator” of the human soul, “the material with which he weaves his stories”. To see winter light is to penetrate the “worldview” and “intellectual and artistic stance” of a complex, dense and profound filmmaker. In his “originality as a creator”, Ingmar Bergman presents his “authorial brand”, with a “personal and unmistakable aesthetic”. Watching his films, paying attention to their aesthetic bases and the phases of his cinematographic journey, we feel the pleasure of looking at the artistic creations of a talent of style and aesthetic sense in his unique way of making cinema (TEIXEIRA, 2018).

In his cine-philosophical exercises, Julio Cabrera reflects on “existence and freedom”. “Cinema thinks” and the philosopher, through films, promotes a dialogue between Jean-Paul Sartre and Ingmar Bergman. From a Sartrean play to a film by Bergman, seen as an “extraordinary philosopher”, the reflection of a character’s theatrical speech: “hell is other people”. Through cinematography, “an introduction to philosophy” (CABRERA, 2006).

*Francisco de Oliveira Barros Junior He is a professor at the Department of Social Sciences at the Federal University of Piauí (UFPI).


CABRERA, Julio. Cinema thinks: an introduction to philosophy through films. Rio de Janeiro: Rocco, 2006. https://amzn.to/3tiAFc8

DURKHEIM, Émile. Suicide: sociology study. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2000. https://amzn.to/45cN66j

TEIXEIRA, Alder. Ingmar Bergman: narrative strategies. Fortaleza: Premius Gráfica e Editora, 2018.

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