Ingmar Bergman – Ingmar Bergman Bris Soap Commercials (1951)

In 1951 there was a conflict in the Swedish film industry. The production companies had declared a ban on filming in protest against the high rate of tax on entertainment. Recently remarried, Ingmar Bergman, found himself with three families to support, and his contract with the Gothenburg City Theatre had expired. In order to earn any income whatsoever that year, he agreed to direct nine commercial for Bris soap on behalf of Swedish Unilever. It seems more than a coincidence that Sweden’s most famous film director should be the one to take the country’s advertising to a higher plane: the Bris films were the most lavishly funded that the country had ever seen. Continue reading

Ingmar Bergman – Vargtimmen AKA Hour of the Wolf [+Extras] (1968)

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Madness and demonism, present in many of Bergman’s films, are made the explicit themes of Hour of the Wolf. Here they are associated with artistic creativity. Alma (Liv Ullmann) tells of her life with her artist husband, who disappeared, leaving only his diary. “The first of three films featuring Max von Sydow as Bergman’s alter ego, the artist in retreat to an island (Fårö, the director’s own home) where all his demons and imagined monsters can come out to play, threatening to possess their creator and ‘disappear’ him into the darkness behind the brain. A strikingly Gothic tale of horror, Hour of the Wolf owes much to Bram Stoker’s Dracula in its evocation of the artist’s admirers and tormentors as vampires, flocks of flesh-eating birds and insects.” –Kathleen Murphy, Film Society of Lincoln Center Continue reading

Bo Widerberg – Elvira Madigan (1967)

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“Exquisite” is only the first word that surges in my mind as an appropriate description of Elvira Madigan, a Swedish film by Bo Widerberg that was put on at the late show in Philharmonic Hall last night. For exquisite it is in all the lovely and delicate sense of the word as used to define the felicities of sensuous experience. Continue reading

Arne Mattsson – Vaxdockan aka The Doll (1962)

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summary
A night watchman (Per Oscarsson) in Stockholm interrupts a burglary and finds a mannequin that he takes home; in his mind, it’s a beautiful and very much alive woman. Director Arne Mattsson knows how to use the shadows of black-and-white cinematography to chilling effect; that along with Oscarsson’s performance elevate this psychological look at loneliness and mental illness. The star must have studied Anthony Perkins in Psycho (1960); he looks like him and plays his character in a similar fashion. Behind the youthful façade lies insanity. Gio Petré is credible in the transition between doll and human. ~ Movie Hamlet. Continue reading