Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hour of the Wolf

From Ingmar Bergman, director of such internationally beloved cinematic classics as The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Fanny and Alexander and Scenes From a Marriage, comes... a horror movie? No way, horror movies are for children and fat, immature nerds who live in their mother's basement and jerk-off to Fangoria. Bergman was a serious artist, he wouldn't taint his name by working in such a disreputable genre.

No? Well guess what, bitches? He did. Sort of.

Hour of the Wolf stars Bergman staple Max Von Sydow as a tortured artist type, living in semi-seclusion on an island with his wife (Liv Ullmann), who is being haunted by... what? Ghosts? Demons? Memories? Are these experiences even real, or is he losing his mind?

The early scenes of Hour of the Wolf are rough going. I've admired and even loved some of Bergman's films, but for a while I thought that Hour of the Wolf was an expression of his worst tendencies; gloomy self-seriousness about a bunch of joyless Swedes posing in the shadows and reciting grim, impenetrable statements to each other. Not that this style of turgid theatricality is inherently ineffective, but I much prefer the warm humanism of Fanny and Alexander to the posed obscureness of, say, Persona. Though I can perhaps admire its posture, it doesn't connect with me emotionally.

It gets better, luckily. I never quite got in sync with whatever Bergman was trying to communicate in terms of narrative or meaning, but Hour of the Wolf becomes increasingly eerie as it goes along, as well as increasingly bizarre, and Bergman treats the audience to some memorably weird visuals. The atmosphere is thick enough in the later portion of the film that I'm glad I watched it, but it's not the brilliant revelation I might have expected from the film's pedigree.

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