To Joy (Till Glädje)

Dir: Ingmar Bergman. 1950. Starring: Stig Olin, Maj-Britt Nilsson,Victor Sjöström. Swedish. Foreign.
To Joy (Till Glädje)

"Music is the goal, not the means."

Few films capture the simplicities of what is important in an artist's life. The title is taken from Schiller's "Ode to Joy," fitting for this story concerning two orchestral players. Stig is a dissatisfied musician, hating the idea of living in mediocrity, while Marta is a beautiful lady who basks in the simple joys of life. She steals Stig's hardened heart in spite of himself, and they eventually get married. He struggles with his ability to play as a violin soloist. His ambitions consume him to the point where he loses sight of his wife's patience and care. We've all seen this inner torment from the viewpoint of a husband/musician plenty of times – any biopic of an artist will tell that story. Yet what stands out about this film is Bergman's ability to portray the main character in all his flaws and weaknesses, and there's absolutely no glamour or flashiness attached. The result? Honest, rich sentiment.

The conductor Sönderby reminds the conflicted Stig, "Music is the goal, not the means." For Bergman, the struggle of a filmmaker in light of artistry versus commercial success is metaphorically revealed in this early film. This quote serves the theme's quest in particular. Bergman wrote the film in his own dilemma between love and art. He concludes, but "even if one is only a mediocrity, still one must function." I think anyone involved with the art world can relate. I myself learned a few hard-swallowed lessons.

While the film's tragedies reveal itself as a melodrama, the tone is far from the cheap tricks of a soap opera. Shot in the beautiful Bergman black-and-white signature style, the film will dive deep into your soul, raising questions of what is truly important.

To Joy can be found in the box set titled "Eclipse Series 1 - Early Bergman" (Torment / Crisis / Port of Call / Thirst / To Joy) (Criterion Collection) (1963).

Posted by:
Tiffany Huang
Sep 13, 2008 2:34pm
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