31 October 2014

Hour of the Wolf (1968)
90 min.
Directed by Ingmar Bergman.
With Max von Sydow, Liv Ullman, Gertrud Fridh, Georg Rydeberg, Erland Josephson, Naima Wifstrand, Ulf Johansson, Gudrun Brost.
The only horror film from director Ingmar Bergman, Hour of the Wolf is a moody - if trying - experience.

Painter Johan Borg (Sydow) is a tormented artist whose mental state is dubious, to say the least.

He seems compelled to sketch macabre things: demons, witches and monsters. So, he and his wife Alma (Ullman) retreat to a secluded island where Johan can rest, and focus solely on his work.

But the isolation doesn't help. A group of eccentric locals on the island ingratiate themselves into the Borgs' lives. Their influence has a bizarre effect on Johan's already-fractured psyche.

Soon, the poor man is teetering on the brink of insanity...with deadly consequences to all those around him.

This 1968 Swedish terror flick is a mix of psychological and gothic horror, done art-house style.

Although Hour has echoes of Polanski, including Repulsion (1965) and The Tenant (1976), ultimately it's not as satisfying as either.

There are some interesting flashes of inspiration, such as the moment where an old woman removes her face as if it were a rubber mask, and also the 'walking on the ceiling' sequence.

But there's a conspicuous absence of character background provided on Johan and Alma; as such, the two characters are restricted to being nothing more than cardboard cutouts of unexplainable angst.

The viewer can't help but become detached from their spiralling descent into tragedy. The images Bergman serves up are stimulating, but without any pathos attached to them, they're simply a parade of cold nightmares.

Course, perhaps that was the intent, after all.

Also known as Vargtimmen.

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