For a long time unavailable on DVD, this 2007 Tartan release finally addresses that, but is it worth it?
Like most, I love classic Bergman and find anything else by him interesting, at the very least. Coming just after the heavy and emotionally draining making of his The Virgin Spring, in 1960, the DVD blurb tells us that the director needed to 'tell a joke' - this resulting oddity revealing a waspish comedic streak from someone known as a deep, complex and often depressive writer and director.
It launched Bibbi Anderson, who would become Bergman's famous face in his massive hits Persona and Wild Strawberries. In The Devil's Eye, she plays the virgin Britt-Marie, daughter of a cleric. At age 20, the Devil has decided she's ripe for de-flowering, but she's promised to a boring but reliable older man. Taking the form of Don Juan, the infamous lethario of legend, the devil attempts to seduce her. Who will win? Heaven, or Hell, or indeed, both?
From the very outset, with its odd introduction and even odder harpsichord note, this one is set to be a comedy. It's very theatrical; caricatures and grotesques mix with the ordinary, mirrors and imaginative sets convey hell. Period detail rubs shoulders with 20th century Scandinavian domesticity. One can see many possible influences, all moulded in a vast cooking pot and quite a strange mixture is the result.
I'm sure one could look into it all a lot deeper than I did - one of the greatest things about Bergman is that most of his films can be watched at a differing angle and a whole new aspect is highlighted, helped enormously by his intelligent and often poetic dialogue. Watching late at night when concentration levels were ebbing, I took it as it was presented - amusing, satirical, with sexual references, a wit and with a big sparkle in this Devil's Eye.
To answer my question - yes, it is good, but oddly, so un-Bergman like (though some scenes in Fanny & Alexander, for example, share this mischief) I wouldn't say that this film is essential Bergman. For those who want all he did, then yes, obviously and maybe those who want to know more about his inner psyche. Those expecting a more formal classic, might be well put-off, it's the sort of 'what the hell is this?' that may well result in the 'stop' button on the remote being pressed.
The transfer quality is excellent though the subtitles appear slightly smaller and more 'European' than on other Tartan Bergman's I have.
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