Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Vargtimmen / The Hour of the Wolf

Vargtimmen / The Hour of the Wolf. The Baron hangs from the ceiling.

SE 1968. PC: Svensk Filmindustri. P: Lars-Owe Carlberg. D+SC: Ingmar Bergman. DP: Sven Nykvist – black and white – 1,37:1. AD: Marik Vos. Cost: Mago. M: Lars Johan Werle [his fine, modernistic score takes an effect when the hour of the wolf is approaching]. W. A. Mozart: Die Zauberflöte (the scene where Tamino asks whether the night has no end and whether Pamina is still alive). J. S. Bach: Sarabande from Partita III a-Moll BWV 827. S: P.O. Pettersson. ED: Ulla Ryghe. Unit director: Bo Vibenius.
    C: Liv Ullmann (Alma Borg), Max von Sydow (Johan Borg), Erland Josephson (baron von Merkens), Gertrud Fridh (Corinne von Merkens), Bertil Anderberg (Ernst von Merkens), Gudrun Brost (old lady von Merkens), Georg Rydeberg (Lindhorst, archivist), Ulf Johansson (therapist Heerbrand), Naima Wifstrand (old lady with the hat), Ingrid Thulin (Veronica Vogler), Lenn Hjortzberg (Kreisler, conductor), Agda Helin (maid), Mikael Rundqvist (boy in the nightmare), Mona Seilitz (corpse in the mortuary), Folke Sundquist (Tamino in The Magic Flute). Loc: Hovs hallar vid Hallandsåsen (Skåne). Studio: Filmstaden (Råsunda).
    Helsinki premiere: 29.3.1968 Maxim, released by: Filmipaja Oy. VET 76420 – K16 – original length 2455 m (shortened on 9 February 1968 to 2395 m) / in Finland 2405 m / 88 min (same length as in the Swedish premiere).
    A vintage Filmipaja print with Finnish subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (I Love You, I Film You), 1 August 2012.

- O ewige Nacht, wann wirst du schwinden? Wann wird das Licht mein Auge finden?
- Bald, bald, mein Jüngling, oder nie.
Die Zauberflöte

Revisited after a long while one of Ingmar Bergman's most personal movies, one made for himself and for the true lovers of art and his art. It is a horror movie, a personal one with few genre characteristics. It has no predecessors or followers, and it is an even more personal work than Dreyer's Vampyr.

Persona was a movie about the silence of art in a world of terror.

The Hour of the Wolf is about the confrontation with the inner terror, with the nightmares.

Liv Ullmann who played the artist in Persona now has the Alma role, a role similar to the nurse Alma that Bibi Andersson played in Persona. Alma is the sane, normal, earthbound, life-carrying person who helps keep the feet of the artist Johan Borg on the ground.

Alma is the narrator in the framing story, the woman whose man has disappeared into the dark forest of the night. The narrative is based on Johan Borg's diary in which he recounts uncanny events that we understand are nightmares. A vampire boy attacks him in bright daylight at the shore. There is a castle of the aristocratic von Merkens family which has lost its fortune. In the castle Johan and Alma meet its strange inhabitants. In Johan's final visit to the castle the jealous baron stands on the ceiling upside down, the old lady strips off her own face, and the corpse in the mortuary turns out to be Johan's nymphomaniac lover Veronica Vogler, full of life.

Johan has been afraid of the night, the hour of the wolf, and he has been suffering from insomnia. Finally he gets lost in the night. Alma has been following him and she has started to witness some of Johan's demons, but she is too sane, her feet are too firmly on the ground for her to follow him all the way.

One can understand the irritation of the critics about this movie in the crazy, revolutionary year 1968. Now the uncompromising subjectivity of this timeless movie is easier to appreciate.

The Hour of the Wolf is also about the artist's utter solitude. Not even the decadent, aristocratic cream of the society can understand him.

Some of the nightmares, such as the one with the sunshine vampire, have been shot in very high contrast, and there is a feeling of a refined, intentional high contrast in the entire movie, experimentally shot by Sven Nykvist. The vintage print conveys this unique imagery very well.

- Bald, bald, bald, sagt ihr, oder nie? Ihr Unsichtbaren, saget mir, lebt denn Pamina noch?
- Pamina, Pamina, ja sie lebt!

No comments: