Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ordet vs. Through a Glass Darkly

I've spent a few days this week watching Scandinavian films for a class, two in particular: Dreyer's Ordet (The Word) and Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly. Ordet takes it's theme from Kierkegaard, one of my favorite authors; Through a Glass Darkly references one of my favorite verses from the New Testament.

I ought to warn potential viewers: The Bergman film does include references to incest; nothing is shown, but the subject matter may be objectionable. I found it disconcerting, perhaps because I knew it was coming; the foreshadowing filled me with dread.

That aside, Ordet discusses the quest for God through the metaphors of physicality, life, death, insanity, and faith; Through a Glass Darkly explores the search for God through insanity, physicality, and love. As I'm currently writing a kind of sermon-essay on physicality, I found both films eerily appropriate, though Ordet takes a position on faith with which I much more definitely agree.

I won't ruin either film for those who have not yet watched them, so to discuss the issue, I'll reference Bergman's Wild Strawberries. The seeker in the film quotes a famous Swedish poem: "Var är den vän som överallt jag söker?"

I'll provide a bit of translation here, alongside the original Swedish text. For my Swedish readers, I welcome commentary and suggestions on the translation. "Var är Den Vän som överallt jag söker?" av Josef Olaf Wallin.

Var är den vän som överallt jag söker?
När dagen gryr, min längtan blott sig öker;
När dagen flyr, jag än ej honom finner,
Fast hjärtat brinner.

Where is that friend, whom everywhere I seek?
When the day dawns, my longing only grows;
When the day flees, I still cannot find Him
Though my heart burns.

Jag ser hans spår, varhelst en kraft sig röjer,
En blomma doftar och ett ax sig böjer.
Uti den suck jag drar, den luft jag andas,
Hans kärlek blandas.

I see his traces, wherever power moves,
a flower blooms, or a leaf bends.
In the breath I draw, the air I breathe
His love is mixed.

Jag hör hans röst, där sommarvinden susar,
Där lunden sjunger och där floden brusar;
Jag hör den ljuvast i mitt hjärta tala
Och mig hugsvala.

I hear his voice, where summer winds whisper,
where groves sing and where rivers roar
I hear it best in my heart speaking,
and me keeping.


Ack, när så mycket skönt i varje åder
Av skapelsen och livet sig förråder,
Hur skön då måste själva källan vara,
Den evigt klara!

O! When so much beauty in every vein
of Creation and life fail,
How beautiful must the source be,
The eternally True!

I've tried to stay with the literal translation here, though I admit some artistic licenses.

This is one of my favorite poems in Swedish, and if you read the whole thing, it's fairly inspiring; comfort and evidence of God's hand, and reason for hope, in the world around us. Bergman doesn't quite get so far as hope in God, though, I think: in Through A Glass Darkly at least, the title character only gets so far as the possibility of goodness. Granted, the goodness he finds as comfort, both for him and for his son (that his daughter rejects in favor of a more... tangible? God) does provide some measure of hope.

That's a far cry, though, from Ordet's reassurance of a living, active, human God. That, I think, is one of the most comforting aspects of Christianity - not just that God exists, not just that there's the possibility of redemption, but that there are living, thinking, loving Beings who WANT us to succeed. It's the difference between an indifferent universe and a friendly one; between mortality that is only dreary and bitter and mortality with meaning; between a long, mechanical grind through life and a joyous journey of development and understanding.

So, of course I prefer Ordet. I ordered it online, actually, the night I saw it. I've never done that with a film before. If you haven't taken the time to see it yet, check it out.

Through a Glass Darkly is something I'll recommend if you choose not to believe in God. It provides a perspective on God that perhaps is easier to swallow. In my experience, though, what Through A Glass Darkly offers is not enough of a support in my journey through mortality; Ordet describes something that is.

No comments:

Post a Comment