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Criterion Collection: Magician [Blu-ray] [US Import]

Gunnar Bjornstrand , Max Von Sydow , Ingmar Bergman    Blu-ray
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Actors: Gunnar Bjornstrand, Max Von Sydow
  • Directors: Ingmar Bergman
  • Format: Special Edition, Subtitled
  • Language: Swedish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: NR (Not Rated) (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: 12 Oct 2010
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003WKL6Y4
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 116,746 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



A sort of existential horror movie set in what often feels like a darkly imaginary 1846, The Magician is Ingmar Bergman's meditation on the restrictive nature of modern rationalism. Max Von Sydow cuts a suitably melancholy and mystical figure as Dr Vogler, the mute hypnotist who travels with a group of players to Stockholm, only to be examined and humiliated by a team of sceptical inquisitors led by Gunnar Bjornstrand's Dr Vergerus and a hog-like police chief. Dr Vogler exacts his revenge on Vergerus, however, in an extraordinary feat of illusion.

With its elaborate, occasionally expressionistic sets and its feel of a scrupulously re-enacted nightmare, The Magician is reminiscent at times of Poe or even The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. However, the "below stairs" characters--including Ake Fridell's ebullient Master of Ceremonies and a host of giggling wenches--add comic energy to what is otherwise a startling and sombre reflection of the nature of art and life. It would prove a turning point in Bergman's career as he moved away from his early, "romantic" period.

On the DVD: Presented in the original academy ratio, the mix of soft light and harsh shade for which credit should go to photographer Gunnar Fischer, is well-restored here. In notes from his memoirs included here, Bergman relates how his adventures and privations as part of a theatre company in Malmo provided inspiration for The Magician, while critic Ronald Bergman's notes talk of "the ability of the artist to find truth in both fact and fantasy". --David Stubbs

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Key Bergman 29 Jun 2005
By Colin C
This is an important work in Bergman's filmography, a historically set, metaphorical, theatrical statement before he moved on to the more intimate chamber-films of the 1960s. It would be foolish to make definite statements concerning this film, because it remains mysterious and elusive even after repeated viewing, but central themes would certainly include IB's own personal feelings on being an artist (and an 'outsider'), and fears of being 'exposed' in some way as a charlatan.
'The Magician' doesn't have many slapstick gags or zany one liners, and it retains the doom-laden, oppressive atmosphere of 'The Seventh Seal', so don't come to 'The Magician' if you are in the mood for Chevy Chase. If you are exploring Bergman's work, though, this should be a priority buy, ahead of the minor works of the 40s which Tartan are now releasing, as it is a fascinating and important film. As ever, Max von Sydow is majestic.
I would have preferred to see this released as 'The Face', which is the actual translation of the Swedish title and the proper UK title, rather than the American title Tartan have gone with. This is a minor gripe though and the print of the film is excellent. All in all, highly recommended.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
'The Magician' tends to get overlooked, due in part to its proximity to 'The Seventh Seal' and 'Wild Strawberries'. And yet I think it stands the test of time in some ways better than the latter film. While that more famous work contains some rather obvious expressionist symbolism that even in 1957 was seen by some as a little cliched, 'The Magician' has a perfectly rendered expressionist asesthetics that doesn't try too hard to wring existential meaning at every turn, and which instead lets a perfectly wedded narrative and thematic tapestry unfold by way of strikingly wrought images. The setting of those images is also reminiscent of 'Seventh Seal's middle-ages grime as well as its baroque lighting, and 'The Magician' was unfairly compared to that film for these reasons.
But here we have a quite different tale indeed, which quite brilliantly puts both 'superstitious' belief and Enlightenment 'reason' to the test, only to find both are basically a performance - the alpha strut of human mastery over a universe than cannot be known or accounted for by any system, whether made up of old-world 'mumbo jumbo' or the 'objectivity' of science.
The film is probably in part less popular than Bergman's other works of this period because its main characters are rather cold and uninviting. The closest here to Bergman's 1950s life-affirming figure is (again) Bibi Andersson's character, but compared to earlier films she is mainly a playful side-performer in the main game. The spotlight is on more grim figures that don't have the time for her frivolities: Max von Sydow is the magician, and his enigmatic assistant/lover is played by Ingrid Thulin. Together they move like paranoid mannequins or ghosts from another age, acting like they are always under risk of oppression.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
At present this 1955 Black and White Classic is only available on BLU RAY in the States.
But therein lies a problem for UK and European buyers…

The US issue is REGION-A LOCKED - so it WILL NOT PLAY on most UK Blu Ray players unless they're chipped to play 'all' regions (which the vast majority aren't).
Don’t confuse BLU RAY players that have multi-region capability on the 'DVD' front – that won’t help.

Until such time as someone else gives “The Magician” a REGION B and C release – check your BLU RAY player has the capacity to play REGION A – before you fork out for the pricey Criterion issue…
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charlatanism and witchery. 22 May 2009
By technoguy VINE VOICE
The Magician is a magical early 50's film from Bergman. He opposes to the magic of Vogler's Magnetic Health Theatre, the cold rationalism of Dr. Vergerus and the other government officials, the chief of police and the consul. In 1846 the travelling troupe are on the run and are heavily disguised. Ingrid Thulin acts as a male assistant to her husband Dr. Vogler, who is himself disguised behind a false hair and beard. They have a director of the Co. who sells their act to new customers. The old woman with them, a witch, sells love potions. Is Vogler a charlatan or a man with supernatural powers? Vogler's face in disguise as a mute is messianic. He represents to Vergerus "what cannot be explained". However science can penetrate all mysteries. Vogler and his troupe are submitted to questions in such a humiliating manner to unmask their fraud.

They have been invited to stay at the inn where they are to perform. There are elements of fairy tale and horror show,ghosts, dying and dead actors. In one of the acts the chief of police's wife reveals he's a fraud. Another man, a driver, attempts to kill Vogler to escape his power. Vogler enacts a terrible revenge on Dr. Vergerus. In this little allegory Bergman was drawing on his theatrical experiences: the duality of artists in a closed world of illusions and the ambiguous relationship with the world outside. He had to beguile the audience.Filmic art represented the longing for pure artistry(the dying actor expresses this). Bergman's true target was a film critic married at the time to Thulin. This film is a perfect example of the best of his early work. Von Sydow's illusionist is related to the wordless actress Vogler (L.Ullman ) in Persona.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A really good movie
I have actually not watched the DVD delivered. It is a gift for a friend of mine. i know, however, that it is a damn good movie.
Published 2 months ago by Carlberg Mats
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical Bergam
When a magician arrives in a new town he is quizzed by the local authorities, some of whom are deeply skeptical of the 'magic' on show. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Claudia Saatchi
4.0 out of 5 stars Not my favorite Bergman, but still very worth seeing
An outstanding looking, very odd mix of somewhat broad comedy, horror
film, and (of course) Bergman's metaphysical musings. Read more
Published on 17 April 2012 by K. Gordon
5.0 out of 5 stars "Light" Bergman?
Some reviewers have set themselves out to compare The Magician squarely against Ingmar's previous two masterpieces, The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries and mark The Magician... Read more
Published on 3 Feb 2012 by Tim Kidner
5.0 out of 5 stars I didn't die, but I haunt the living.
Vogler's Magnetic Health Theater rolls into town and is promptly summoned for a meet with the town big wigs. Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2011 by Spike Owen
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best from Bergman
This film has everything nad has you gripped from beginning to end. Great acting from a wonderful cast and the usual high quality of production. Read more
Published on 25 Jun 2011 by S. H. Goldstone
5.0 out of 5 stars Black comedy with the power to enthrall
Bergman's The Face, to give it its proper name, is a dark comedy with elements of horror and eroticism, reminding you not to peer too closely, not to seek the truth more frightful... Read more
Published on 19 Mar 2010 by Philoctetes
3.0 out of 5 stars Icy Swedish horror......
"The Magician" filmed in 1958 is not quite one of the best Bergman films but still manages to shock,enthrall and entertain in equal measure. Read more
Published on 30 Jan 2006
3.0 out of 5 stars lost in translation
This is a fine but neglected work by Bergman, the point about what people hide about their beliefs as they express them is well expressed. Read more
Published on 12 Dec 2005 by "woodenlodge2"
4.0 out of 5 stars Another example of Bergmans magic
Ingmar Bergmans the Magician is a very vell told tale of snake oil salesmen and travelling magicians. Read more
Published on 17 Feb 2002 by Magnus Carlström
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