A retelling of Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly based on a single viewing that took place years ago.

There is the salience of summertime. How it means the ritual of freedom from ritual. There is a table, al fresco. The atmosphere is lively familiarity, one of comfort derived from closeness, but of course at the same time of a question, a fear, of what’s underneath the surface, and of if, and of when.

There are so many men, so many patriarchs. And there is a young woman: she is sparkling, a light inside the eyes of everyone at the table.

The dinner unrolls the way that dinners do. Maybe a glance is exchanged or words when she is out of the room, or maybe even she’s exchanging them. But the main thing is that the night air is warm and it’s calm, and she’s there. And she’s warm and she’s calm and that’s important too. Like winter is behind us, and its return is not something you think about when it’s spring.


In bed, it is her and her husband, who is not her father but is not NOT her father. Who is her caretaker. Who has chosen her and doesn’t unchoose her. She is not tricking him into staying there. She loves him in the way that she can. And he is attuned to her, and can feel the shift, just a slight change in the scent of the air; he sees/feels/smells something and he wonders if it’s real, if it’s IT, if the thing is back.

She is awake in all the quiet small moments, when you feel most alone, and she hears the fog horn, hears the mystery of what it’s saying, or the certainty, the dread of its voice, its message, which sits like a weight inside her and grows heavier and heavier.

There is a body of water, vast, that lies at the edges. And it is filled with sounds and with things that are unknowable, and it’s always there. Right at the edges.

There is some discussion, some negotiation, and the hope, if it can just be addressed scientifically, adultly, responsibly, if it can be classified, it can be treated. There is the hope that it can be treated. That it WILL be treated.

Someone goes swimming or fishing. Maybe a month has passed, or a week, or just a few days. Summer always seems too short. Some of the group (the patriarchs) go on a day trip, or a supply run. They will be gone for a while. But things have begun to change with her, in a shallow way, and by the time they get back, the shadows will be deep.

There is the boat. The creaky boat, old and leaking. There is the safety of the familiar. There is the beauty of her and how anything must be done, that beautiful wildflower. How to care for it? How to make it your own?

There may be a storm coming. The boat may be shelter, it may be safety. It isn’t a boat that works. It is a shell of a boat.

No one realizes it was wrong until after. But it is the turning point. Like autumn, the fall.


Then there is the end. The day trip returns, from getting food, or medicine, help. They can’t deny it now. It’s back. It is not her but it is her, the other her. Did the brother know who it was? Was he trying to fix her or just comfort her or just comfort himself?

She is in a room that for her is a prison. The room, the world, the mind is a prison. There is movement, pawing at the walls, pacing the floors. There may be something in the room, or in the walls. She is waiting. For help? Maybe she is looking for something, or waiting, not for help but for it to reveal itself. Or she is hoping it will stay hidden, and she is terrified of seeing it emerge. Help comes but there is no help. They are talking like lion tamers, like police to a pistol-brandishing suspect. Put down the gun.

Then something does show. It is the helicopter that is a spider that is god. It is the monster that’s been hiding. It can’t help. All is lost, she is gone. But maybe she is right. God is a spider, or god is a machine, or god is the monster hiding in the walls. God is the promise of help that never arrives, god is a misinterpretation. And the fine line that prevents us from seeing what she sees is a very thin curtain, and behind it is the chaos and fury, not of one deranged mind, but of everything.


The water is always there, and it never changes.

Turbid Reflection

Sarah Van Bonn