Hour of The Wolf

 

 

I am slowly making my way through viewing all of the films of Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman, who for most film enthusiasts, should need no introduction. I am not approaching them in any major order, and hence, my third Bergman film is 1968’s ‘Hour of the Wolf’.  Of the 3 Bergman films I have seen so far, (The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries and this one), I enjoyed ‘Hour of the Wolf’ the least. That being stated, it is not a low quality work at all, it just came off, to me, as more experimental and dis-jointed than other films Bergman has done. Of course, to a certain extent, this was his intent, in creating a psychological drama, portraying the inner workings of a mind in the process of disintegrating. The main character, played by Max Von Sydow, is the victim of said mental instability, while his wife in the film serves as a witness, and at least in the beginning, an anchor to reality for the character of Johan. As I watched the film, I had admitted trouble grasping which of the circumstances portrayed were real to Johan, and which ones were hallucinatory. Lacking the kaleidoscopic element provided by color film, this movie relies on light and shadow to create atmosphere, and in most early Bergman films, this is done quite well. In this film, however, I came away with a mixed impression, emotionally invested in the indoor monologue/dialogue scenes between Johan and his wife, with both figures cloaked mostly in darkness, while somewhat blunted in the outdoor scenes of Johann and his various activities of increasing absurdity. It was difficult for me to have a sense of dread in many of these outdoor scenes, as they were purely situationally bizarre, while giving little insight into how Johann was processing his hallucinations. The plot element of the upper-class family residing in a dilapidated manor was also of mixed quality, in my opinion. While the final scenes of the film were quite disturbing in the journey of Johann through the manor and amongst the disturbed upper class family, the earlier scenes of him and his wife’s interactions with the family during a dinner and out in the gardens were less well executed, and served a plot role that would better have been filled by scenes of Johann at home or further exposition into his mental state. Overall, this film does serve its purpose, as something of a free form exploration into a variety of internal demons of the artist as fallible being, and there are quality psychological horror scenes within the film, but in my viewing it creates a less than jointed wholistic work, and should be viewed for its atmospheric and stylistic impression, as the topics of mental illness, despair and existentialism have been more masterfully portrayed in other Bergman films.

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