Book Review- Through a Glass Darkly by Jenny Worton

With book reviews I will typically limit myself to books that are about a film, filmmaking or filmmakers. However, there will be the occasional tangential exception and this is one of them. Through a Glass Darkly is one of the most famous films by Ingmar Bergman, but many of his films are very adaptable to the stage, and already have been either while Bergman was living or through the Ingmar Bergman Foundation.

Bergman himself was also every bit as much a man of the theatre as he was of the cinema. As for the adaptation it is written by Jenny Worton and the first thing of note is that it is easier to recommend for fans of Bergman and the piece. I picked up this brisk 72-page play at The Drama Book Shop for $18, which is not cheap so that’s the first grain of salt with which to take the play.

However, for the most part the play does manage to translate the palpable drama of the tale from screen to stage. There are a few head scratching decisions though; the story is neither moved in time or locale but there are I believe three profanities, only one of which really rings true given the situation. There is also the occasional awkward piece of dialogue, but for the most part it reads like Bergman’s tale. It must also be stated that the edition I read has a disclaimer within it that states dialogue may have altered between rehearsal process and debut.

There’s also the double-edged sword of sparse scene description, which gives productions a bit of freedom but also can at times catch the reader unawares as certain scenes perhaps seemed more minimalist at first and then developed.

Another pet peeve of minimal importance is that the biblical quote that inspired the title is nowhere to be found. In the film there is a title card at the start, but here there’s no textual allusion to it at all. No food for thought, only an assumption that we may know it. Now, this may be the playwright not wishing to impose some sort of multimedia aspect on anyone seeking to produce it. However, that is becoming more common in the theatre and might be a nice touch.

Granted it’s not Bergman adapting himself, which would be ideal, but it is a very good take on the tale. If you’re a fan of Bergman or the theatre it is worth looking into indeed in spite of a steep price.

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