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Arguably Bergman's Finest Critique of Art and the Artist,
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This review is from: Hour Of The Wolf [DVD] (DVD)
Relatively few younger Bergman fans have probably seen "Hour of the Wolf" as it has never been released on vhs or dvd in the UK before and is rarely revived at cinemas. Of Bergman's films I had not seen before the NFT retrospective last year (which included "Sawdust and Tinsel", "Autumn Sonata", "The Passion of Anna" and "Shame", this made the greatest impact.
Needless to say the cinematography is stunning and while neither Liv Ullman nor Max von Sydow is as magnificent as in other Bergman roles, the acting of the cast is uniformly excellent. "Hour of the Wolf" has many similarities with other films (a character by the name of "Vogler" appears in a host of Bergman's films and the scene about Johan's being caned as a boy foreshadows the semi-autobiographical "Fanny and Alexander") but is perhaps closest in feel to "the Magician" in the depiction of the position of artists in society. However, "Hour of the Wolf", while no less gripping is much darker and more surreal. Some of the devices are new and welcome additions to the bows of Bergman and cinematographer Sven Nykvist, and combine to make a genuinely unsettling film.
It has been remarked that many a Bergman film features a play within a play. Here Bergman's favourite opera, "the Magic Flute", is featured and, indeed, the film stands in part as Johan's trial by fire and water. To affocianodos and those with a bare knowledge of Bergman, "Hour of the Wolf" is recommended viewing and, to the latter group, if not perhaps the quintessential Bergman film, as good a display of the the man's directoial flair as any other.