Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Hour of the Wolf |
Actors: Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Gertrud Fridh, Georg Rydeberg, Erland Josephson
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Horror, Special Interests
The delicate, dangerous line between genius and insanity is brilliantly plumbed in this haunting film from Ingmar Bergman that's "a dazzling flow of surrealism, expressionism and full-blooded Gothic horror" (The Observer).... more »
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5 stars for effectiveness; not enjoyment.
Ted Byrd | 09/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There were very few scenes in this Bergman film that I actually enjoyed. Only two come to mind. One was the performance on a puppet stage of an aria from Mozart's Magic Flute by a very lifelike manikin. This miniature version was very lovely, and within the strange context it was presented, was somehow both frightening and beautiful. The other was a very brief fragment of a piano solo played by a person introduced as "Herr Kreisler". I may be taking a leap here, but I thought that was probably an allusion to the early 19th century composer and author of fantastic tales, E.T.A. Hoffmann, who wrote music criticism under the pen-name "Kreisler".
If so, the reference was perfectly in keeping with the fantastic elements of this story of a man haunted by vampire-like figures conjured from his own subconscious mind. I found this to be a genuinely creepy movie; the beings who urged themselves on Max Von Sydow's character so familiarly had the appearance of regular humans, but Bergman managed to insinuate so strongly a sense of evil about them that they inspire both fear and loathing.
The excellent black-and-white cinematography greatly contributed to this mood of a creepy seductiveness which was merely a thin veil over something ominous, ghastly and corrupt. And what better place for a drama like this to unfold than on an isolated island, inhabited only by a man and woman. At least, those were the only human inhabitants.
Von Sydow is an artist whose personality is evidently fragmenting into these schizophrenic manifestations of characters whom he calls "cannibals". But then, why does his partner, Liv Ullmann start seeing them also? Somehow this is part of Bergman's exploration of the relationship between the domineering, mentally deranged artist and the meek woman who is the subordinate member of the pair. This is a co-dependent relationship, where she is the enabler. She is a simple person; she thinks "in whole thoughts", and is not psychically splintered like her partner. He needs her simplicity and wholeness to keep him anchored in reality, but his demons are extremely powerful.
Perhaps the link between Johan(von Sydow) and Alma(Ullmann) could be viewed allegorically as that between artist and audience. Johan, the artist goes off by himself to paint, and encounters these autonomous beings which come from his own psyche. Alma is not the kind of person who would normally experience anything remotely like these visions, but her close association with Johan has enabled her to see them, especially after she reads his diary. But, because they are not her personal visions, she remains an outsider, even though present at Johan's dealings with them. Indeed, showing very good sense, she resists the advances of these beings.
There are disturbing scenes of graphic violence between von Sydow and his "cannibals". I'm sure they wouldn't make devotees of slasher movies bat an eye, but to me, they suggested such a ghastly possibility of what might be lurking latent within our own minds, that I found them quite shocking. It all depends, I guess, on how plausible you think these possibilities are, how much you will be impacted by them.
To my perceptions, the mood of the film was marred somewhat by starting out with a lengthy monologue by Liv Ullmann, which purpose seems to have been to clue the viewer in to the nature of the events to come. But, looked at in another way, perhaps this was Bergman's way of establishing a demarcation between the rational world of more ordinary people, and the tormented world of the artist who has looked too deeply into himself. Alma's down-to-earth demeanor in this prologue does not quite conceal that the story she is leading into has left her with a dim awareness of an abyss which it is dangerous to look into.
My guess is that this film somehow approximates Bergman's first-hand knowledge or his strong intuition of the evils which can befall the creative artist who possesses the dangerous gift of being able to see into his own depths. The manifestations of von Sydow's sickness reveal themselves to be profoundly predatory and perverse. The intent of these psychic vampires seems to be to feed off his conscious ego in order to strengthen their dark parasitical existence. In a sense these beings of the subconscious are also persons who think "whole thoughts". Unfortunately, these thoughts are simply to feed off their host, regardless of his destruction. Frankly, I was left with a slightly sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, but I certainly would not deny that my interest had been held."
Ingmar's Middle Period Problem Play.
bongo | Denver, CO USA | 10/04/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A man, Johan Borg, and a woman, Alma, go to live on an island. The man is a painter and he has problems sleeping. He and the woman are staying up one night and he tells her about the people he sees in the dreams - the bird-man, the woman with the hat, eventually he becomes exhausted and falls alseep before dawn.
They become accustomed to living on the island. Johan goes around and does some sketches. Alma finds his diary under the bed and reads it. At one point Johan is on a rocky coast and a boy gets into a fight with him and Johan kills him and dumps him in the water. It's hard to tell if this is a dream or not. Bergman shows the episode but turns the sound off. It's like a silent movie within the rest of the movie. But it might have really happened - we got to this episode when Johan was confessing to Alma that the scratch/bruise he had wasn't from a snake like he had told her.
A neighbor, the man who owns the island comes and invites Johan and Alma to his house for a dinner party. The food might not be so great but he can promise good wine he says. They take him up on it. It's a surreal dinner. They are treated to a puppet show where Bergman apparently filmed a real actor and made it look like he was a marrionette. (Clever trick). The people at the party are obscurely threatening and it didn't look like Johan and Alma were having a swell time.
After that the movie becomes a mash-up of dreams and reality, making it almost impossible to explain what happened. It reminded me of Stindberg's A Dream Play actually.
I liked this movie despite the fact that it was one of the least accessible films I've ever seen. (Even for Ingmar this was out there.) But, it had a convincing air of menace, a great look and feel, and hey, it was definitely different.
If you're new to I.B. you might try Smiles of a Summer Night or Wild Strawberries first. If your hip to Bergman's middle period: The Silence, Persona, Passion of Anna, Shame - you'll likely dig this too."
Bergman's Horror Film
Lynn Ellingwood | Webster, NY United States | 02/06/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Bergman's only horror film comes during a period when Bergman was recovering from a nervous breakdown, Liv Ullman's pregnancy and her refusal to live with him in Sweden. He creates a film about an artist who is having delusions and terrifying fantasies especially at night, The Hour of the wolf. His pregnant wife is trying to help him but becomes increasingly involved in the fantasies and delusions and begins to share some of her own."
MOST EXQUISITE HORROR FILM EVER
Jon | NY | 07/08/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here, I'll be directing my comments at the more adventurous of my fellow laymen.
Forget the "art-house" tags that Bergman's work has been saddled with, forget that anyone considers him a genius or deep.
This film on it's own is simply the eeriest most mind warping descent into madness ever committed to celluloid. Forget Kubrick's "The Shining", when violence finally rears it's ugly head in this movie it is shocking and horrifying.
But the trip towards the delirious final act is what makes this film so exquisite. On the first viewing you will take things as they are shown, as concrete reality - that is until Von Sydow's character's perception cannot possibly stand up to scrutiny and all hell breaks loose. A second viewing will reveal the extent to which the "apparitions" have invaded our protagonists lives. Listen carefully to Ullman's and Von Sydow's conversations - Bergman sets things up very early on in the most uncontrived and mundane manner.
Those viewers that are already familiar with Japanese "ghost" stories will probably be the most comfortable and delighted with what Bergman presents here. The "ghosts" are entirely malevolent and the way Bergman allows them to oh-so-subtley begin driving wedges between Von Sydow and Ullman is true genius. In spite of the films fantastic elements the tale rings true to human nature and consequence, and Bergman makes the most of some 'Lovecraftian' restraint involving the finale.
If this film were not hamstrung by the "artsy" reputation of it's director it surely would claim the top spot in any list of best horror films. The tale unwinds deliberately, the characters are sympathetic, and the visuals are rich and eerie - they get under one's skin.
I feel that the enjoyment of Bergman's films has been curtailed by the popular impression that his films only will appeal to connoiseurs and snobs much as Orson Welles films have been regarded, that his work has been claimed by a certain variety of critics. It is bad enough that mainstream theatres in the USA have historically had little interest in his movies, but it further degrades matters when even well-meaning or seemingly complimentary tags like "art-house" are applied today to Bergman's films.
In short, the term "auteur" at first seems like a compliment but in the long term shunts those directors films into a little corner of reality that has little to do with the rest of the world. They become judged against themselves, often harshly and eventually degraded. In the end, these director's movies are shown only in community theatres, on TCM in the wee hours, or appear in self contained boxsets on store's top-shelves. Worse, random searches for genre films do not turn up these movies because they are sequestered critically based on the reputation of their directors - and it's a crime.
I say this with impunity because only recently, after 41 years, have I become aware of this particluar film and that because I accidentally caught "Persona" on TCM by chance. Thoroughly impressed, I found the MGM Bergman boxset on sale and the rest has been a pleasure, but I might never have had the opportunity due to the manner in which Bergman's films are regarded and labeled.
No director works in a vacuum, nor do they release their films into one. While it is wonderful when they surpass their previous works in quality, it is magnificient when they make a movie that towers above others in tone, depth, and richness.
It is in this fashion that "Hour of the Wolf" deserves to be viewed: not as one of the least of Bergman's "children", but as the "Enfant Terrible" of the horror genre.
I cannot recommend this film enough. If you have previously enjoyed "Eraserhead", "Videodrome", "The Mouth of Madness", the original Japanese version of "The Ring", "Night of the Living Dead", "Ugetsu" or the 1978 version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" then you will want to inspect this - as late at night as possible... in the Vargtimmen.