Through a Glass Darkly (1961) - Plot Summary Poster

Plot Summary

  • A young woman, Karin, has recently returned to the family island after spending some time in a mental hospital. On the island with her is her lonely brother and kind, but increasingly desperate husband ('Max von Sydow'). They are joined by Karin's father ('Gunnar Björnstrand'), who is a world-traveling author that is estranged to his children. The film depicts how Karin's grip on reality slowly slips away and how the bonds between the family members are changing in light of this fact.

    - Written by Mio
  • In a small family island, Karin, her teenage brother Minus and her husband Martin welcome her father David, who is a writer permanently absent traveling around the world. Karin has just left a mental institution and has inherited the incurable insanity from her mother. Minus feels lost and alone, estranged by his selfish and cold father that left Karin and he behind after the death of his wife. Martin is neglected by Karin and has no sex life with her anymore and spends his time taking care of his wife. When Karin finds the journal of her father hidden in a drawer in his desk, she reads that her degenerative disease is incurable and triggers a breakdown.

    - Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Martin, a college professor, his wife Karin, Karin's seventeen year old brother Minus, and Karin and Minus' widowed father David have convened at the family's summer home on an island off the coast of Sweden to celebrate David's return from the Swiss Alps, where he was substantially completing his latest novel. The family has long lived a fantasy of they being a loving one, David's extended absences which are the cause of many of the family's problems. Without that parental guidance, Minus is at a confused and vulnerable stage of his life where he is a bundle of repressed emotions, most specifically concerning not feeling loved by his father and concerning the opposite sex. He is attracted to females as a collective but does not know how to handle blatant female sexuality, especially if it is directed his way. A month earlier Karin was released from a mental institution. Her doctor has told Martin that the likelihood that she will fully recover from her illness is low, her ultimate fate being that her mental state will disintegrate totally, although she has functioned well since her release. In his love for her, Martin has vowed to himself to see her through whatever she faces. As Karin begins to lose grip on reality, Minus is the one most directly affected, although it does bring out the issues all the men are facing with regard to their interrelationships.

    - Written by Huggo
  • Karin is trying to readjust to life with her family after her release from a mental institution. Her husband Martin is patient with her as she experiences the highs and lows of life. Both she and her younger brother Minus have issues with their father David, who is visiting. Martin is a well-known author who travels frequently and is estranged from his children. He's about to publish his latest effort and spends much of his time alone, finalizing the manuscript before submitting it t the publishers. After having sex with Minus she realizes she is unable to live in two worlds and must choose between institutionalization and home life.

    - Written by garykmcd
  • On an island, Karin, a recently released mentally sick young woman, is spending her vacation with her husband Martin, a doctor, her father David, a writer just back from Switzerland, and her younger brother Fredrick (Minus). Karin is suffering from hallucinations and hysteria. She thinks she is visited by God.

    - Written by Yepok
  • Recently released from a mental hospital; Karin rejoins her emotionally disconnected family and their island home, only to slip from reality as she begins to believe she is being visited by God.


"Through a Glass Darkly," originally titled "The Wallpaper," is the first part in a film trilogy, the start to a new direction taken by Ingmar Bergman: "chamber films," so named for their analogy to chamber music. First Movement...

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