Friday, September 14, 2012

Hour of the Wolf - Bergman (1968)

Plenty of Ingmar around the Sight & Sound poll, but I'm heading in another direction now. Into the horror...

This was the originally scheduled date and movie, but I almost didn't pull it off. Wasn't streaming when I made plans, I never ordered it, and never did find a dvd locally. But over the weekend, I learned about the "Can I Stream.It?" app [free for both Apple & Android]. Gave it a whirl - and sure enough, film's now on Netflix streaming!

Hour of the Wolf (1968)
Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen)
dir. Ingmar Bergman. 1968, Sweden.
Sight & Sound 2012: Critics' #447 / Directors' #44
Roger Ebert's movie review
DVD from Amazon
Streamed via Netflix!

Hour of the Wolf trailer (1968)
[just noticed that video is ***Not Safe For Work***]

Lindhorst: I examine souls and turn them inside out.

I thought I was being sooo clever... picking his only 'horror' movie for Ingmar Bergman. Maybe I'm stretching the meaning of words, it's more of a David Lynch-type psychological Gothic fantasia - right around the time of George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) too. Also, I later found that maybe not even his 'only' horror, depending on The Serpent's Egg (1977). Anyway, that's what I thought: so clever. Even made a point of it in the intro up there (prepped in late August). Then after watching the movie, I checked BFI again last night because I'd learned how to identify sub-#250/#100 rankings and votes. But wait! This was actually the S&S Directors' #44 film. #44!!

And not expecting an '80s slasher movie, it was everything I wanted. I haven't seen many, but this is definitely a Bergman film - Liv Ullmann! Max von Sydow! The existential abyss, and lotsa philosophical soliloquies while staring offscreen!! The creepy sound design and von Sydow's intensity (along with Ullman's pregnant vulnerability) set you on edge right away. The artist dreams of malignant creatures, then the other islanders start appearing. Bergman horror Tarot: the Old Crone, the Elegant Baron, the Foul Temptress, the Soul Curator, the Puppet Master, The Diary, The Island.

Early on, Liv says that Max doesn't enjoy making friends and likes her because she doesn't talk much. (The characters have names, but they'll always be Ullmann and von Sydow to me.) So of course they're soon invited to an insane party of freaks who push too close and chatter incessantly. It all keeps ratcheting up - the oddball puppetry, the liquor, the scandalous secrets, the social anxiety, the mystery painting... Eventually they're back home, and von Sydow's throwing lit matches around on the floor. Like being cooped up in a hotel room with a raving tweaker, and the paranoia is contagious.

Everything doesn't get better. Startling revelations are greeted with a Breathless-level of detachment. Accusations fly, the gift of a pistol doesn't help so much. I think time broke down, with people climbing the walls, people tearing at their own faces, La Veronica is laid out like Jesse James on ice, von Sydow may or may not have worn a kimono. I'm not sure what happened myself - I think there was a man in the woods, with the head of a bird, or maybe it was a mask...

I'm fairly certain that his only film I'd seen before was The Seventh Seal (1957, S&S #93). Although this is obviously 'minor' Bergman (or maybe not), it has inspired me to make a push into his more serious canon in the near future. So good job, Vargtimmen!

No comments: