Monday 1 October 2012

The Magician (Ansiktet) [1958]

Swedish master Ingmar Bergman was a very prolific filmmaker. Consequently, a number of his films, despite being very good, tend to get lost among his more renowned works (which, expectedly, weren’t few in numbers) – The Magician was a classic example of such a largely underrated gem by Bergman. The film had a number of his distinctive touches, apart from the regular set of actors – the austere look, somber mood, gothic atmosphere through stark B/W photography and minimalist score, and the strong religious undertones and sexual undercurrents. Set in 19th century Stockholm, Vogler (Max von Sydow), a mysterious magician who heads a traveling magic show and is rumored to possess supernatural powers, is forcefully invited, along with his troupe, to the house of a civil servant so that Dr. Vergerus (Gunnar Bjornstrand), a skeptic who believes in science and logic, can call his bluff. And thus begins a fascinating game of one-upmanship between the two. Among the various characters populating the proceedings in this chamber drama, two stand out – Vogler’s sensuous wife (Ingrid Thulin) who dresses as a man during daytime, and Vogler’s grandmother (Naima Wifstrand) who prepares potions for the magic shows and behaves like a scary witch. Bergman made excellent use of sight and sound to create a strong sense of mysticism and occult, thus making it hazy for the audience as to on which side of the line his allegiance lied – he made his intentions clear only at the climax of this incredibly tense film, thus showing that fanaticism and hypocrisy can lie on either side of the afore-mentioned line.

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Spiritual Drama
Language: Swedish
Country: Sweden

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