Thursday, May 31, 2012


Okay, folks. First I'd like to get the big Nordic elephant out of the way: Oscar-nominated Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann is basically Chris Colfer's face-twin. It was a little distracting.
Alright. On with the review…
I had never seen an Ingmar Bergman movie before Hour of the Wolf. Everything I knew about Ingmar Bergman I learned from Simpsons references and Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. I knew that he was a Scandinavian director who did a bunch of artsy black-and-white movies and that Woody Allen loved him. I also knew, almost without a shadow of a doubt, that his movies were not my style. I pictured long, murky parables about war and death. I pictured beautiful cinematography and absolute boredom. I didn’t picture horror movies. And yet, here I am, writing about an Ingmar Bergman movie in my horror blog.
Hour of the Wolf, from what I could tell, is about a pregnant woman and her older husband who live on an island. The husband is slowly getting crazier and crazier because of his interactions with the island's other residents, a castle full of wack-jobs, including a woman that he fooled around with before knocking up his current wife. This guy is pushed to the edge by the surrounding characters, and his wife is becoming increasingly afraid that she’s starting to share her husband’s psychosis. I’m not going to continue explaining the plot, because it isn’t exactly linear, so let’s instead talk about how I might interpret some of the events of this story.
ONE: The husband is a crazy artist who has retreated to this isolated island to be alone. He lashes out at everyone he meets (including the little boy on the beach) because of some intense distrust of the outside world. He has his pregnant wife to cling to, but when he finally lashes out at her (he shoots her), that’s the final straw and he cracks, disappearing forever into himself.
TWO: None of the characters are real except for the husband and wife. The husband has elaborate delusions about the strange people he meets. Slowly, his wife begins to see them too. When one of these delusions gives him the gun he uses to shoot his wife, then his psychosis has finally crossed into a level where he can no longer be cured. At the end of the movie, his wife talks about a scar that the bullets left on her, thus implying that not only is she now damaged by her husband’s psychosis, but now she’s fully succumbed to it, too.
I could go on discussing about a dozen theories that try to tie together all the loose ends and abrupt moments of violence (and cross-dressing). In fact, that’s probably what Bergman wanted. But I’m of the mindset that reviews aren’t about interpretations, they’re about recommendations. Did I enjoy this movie? Was I intrigued instead of confused? Would I recommend this? I think I’d say yes to all three questions.
This is a difficult movie, one with characters that don’t really behave like real people and situations that don’t quite gel. Intellectually, I’m frustrated. Emotionally, I’m highly pleased. This movie kept me surprised, tense, and weirdly curious. The dinner scene at the castle… the violent outburst with the little kid… the laughing ex-girlfriend corpse lady… these were moments that will probably stick with me for a while. As a whole, I prefer my movies to be a little more straight-forward than this, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating how unsettling everything comes across.
Is this a horror movie? Sure. I have a fairly inclusive definition of horror. Everything from Jaws to Rosemary’s Baby to Silence of the Lambs fits under the umbrella. This is psychological. It’s a lot like 2010’s Antichrist without all that squicky gore. Is it wall-to-wall scary? Nope. But I think this one will linger with me.
I just don’t think it completely works as a narrative film. It’s like watching a hallucination, which is a pretty powerful experience. Sure. But once you realize it’s just a hallucination, it’s hard to really care about what happens.


Moon Is a Dead World
Lerner International
United Provinces of Ivanlandia
The Lightning Bug’s Lair

1 comment:

  1. Evan,
    Thank you for the link! (I am now shamed into going back and adding a line to check other entries.)

    And thanks for pointing out the Glee connection; very funny--if SCTV was still around, I could see them doing a Glee-Bergman mash-up.