Sunday 24 February 2013

Hour of the Wolf [1968]

Swedish Master Ingmar Bergman was already at the height of his creative prowess when he made Hour of the Wolf, a fascinating exploration into the dark and grotesque recesses of the human mind. This was at once a disturbing psychological drama and a gothic horror film, and was imbued with elements of marital fidelity, religious symbols and the complex inner workings of an artist. In an interesting decisionl, the opening credits were accompanied by Bergman’s voice and discussions about a shot, thus immediately clarifying the pseudo-reality of what was to follow. The principal protagonists of the story are, Johan Borg (Max von Sydow), a painter in creative limbo and Bergman’s alter-ego, and his doting wife Alma (Liv Ullmann). Narrated in flashbacks by the beautiful and emotional Alma, the tale goes on to chronicle the severe inner turbulence of the artist and his subsequent disappearance, after moving into a small and secluded island. Constructed out of his ramblings in his personal diary that she chances on, we are told of the sense of Catholic guilt and sin plaguing Johan on account of his torrid affair with the seductive Veronica Vogler (Ingrid Thulin). The couple meets a Baron (Erland Josephson) in the island, but what transpires is a bizarre mix of supernatural, delusion and surrealism. Sven Nykvist’s visually arresting cinematography, making brilliant of expressionistic B/W, shadows, silhouettes, canted camera angles, deep focus and extreme close-ups, further added to the perpetuating sense of disquietude and terror. The film’s title, by the way, referred to the hour before dawn when most people die, most children are born, and most people are visited by nightmares, and perhaps even demons.

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Genre: Drama/Horror/Psychological Drama/Gothic Horror/Marriage Drama
Language: Swedish
Country: Sweden


Sam Juliano said...

"disturbing psychological drama and gothic horror film"

Precisely, Shubhajit! This is unlike anything Bergman has done, and it's often seen by some as uneven, but the brooding atmosphere and presence of death fits in with Bergman's theamtic interests. Jarring and nightmarish.

Great piece!

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam. Yes, though on face value or in terms of generic fit, it wasn't something that Bergman was known for. But, as you aptly mentioned, there were thematic elements that were, quite clearly, clearly Bergman-esque. Fantastic & disturbing work by the Master.