Next to Godliness

The second coming of Bergmania: Six takes on a Swedish master's spiritual investigations


HOUR OF THE WOLF
June 23

Birgitta Valberg, von Sydow in Virgin Spring
photo: courtesy Photofest/Film Forum
Birgitta Valberg, von Sydow in Virgin Spring

Bergman's Gothic propensities were an embarrassment to some of his more deep-dish admirers back in the day, but films such as The Magician(1958, screens June 20 and 21) and Hour of the Wolf (1968, also newly available on MGM DVD) hold up a lot better than, say, the missing-God melodramas. Here, painter Max von Sydow (anguished, yes) and girlfriend Liv Ullmann set up a homestead in an island cabin off the coast of Sweden, only to be set upon by a crowd of aristo-ghouls (decadent, you bet) including a bloated Lugosi ringer and an old woman who "keeps threatening to take her hat off" ("She has no face!"). Push all thoughts of an allegory for the artistic process to the back of your mind, step on them hard, and you're left with a pretty solid horror film, with intermittent drafts of the truly unheimlich that make it clear why the film should be a David Lynch favorite; a few of the ghosts' American cousins turn up to offer obscure advice to Laura Palmer in the great, neglected Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. B. KITE

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