Hour of the Wolf (Ingmar Bergman, 1968)
When one gets into art house cinema masters, it is mandatory to step into Ingmar Bergman’s territory. With such landmarks as The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, The Virgin Spring, Cries and Whispers, Persona, and Fanny and Alexander just to name a few. But once a cinephile has seen all the major films from Bergman there’s another level of films into his vast filmography. Into those titles you find interesting pictures that explore a concept, a sentiment, or a state of mind more clumsily than his aforementioned work, but still, very strong films. Lesser Bergman is still better than most of the mainstream film out there.
Of Bergman’s films, few are genre pictures because he did some but none are really stuck into the genres and he gets his on twist on the genre. With Hour of the Wolf, or Vargtimmen for the purists, Bergman makes horror with a film that gets into your mind and let a lot to the imagination except the beautiful body of Ingrid Thulin. Told in flashbacks by Liv Ullman the young wife of an ill artist (Max Von Sydow), the story is about the disappearance of the husband following an encounter of the rich people living in a castle nearby their home on the same island. Not much is explained and seen and we learn that the artist has remorse of guilt and is very distant with his wife. He also has an enduring passion for a past love (Ingrid Thulin). Many of Bergman’s usual themes are present, the couple, the absence of an infant, the guilt, the tormented artist, and a theatrical-like performance is featured.
Aside from being truly Bergmanian, Hour of the Wolf seems more like a quick draft from its creator more than a refined diamond like his other great work. One must not watch this for the horror factor because he will be let on his appetite. It is more psychological and mysterious as a film than really a horror film. Some scenes are shot with great mastery and Sven Nykvist’s masterful print is again near perfect. The mise en scene deserves a mention just by itself and would have gained a lot if was better handled with a more solid script.
Over a career that started in the 1940’s and that ended in the 2000’s, even a director as talented as Ingmar Bergman could have put a more average film. Well compared to his better work it is indeed average. But put into the History of Cinema it is quite interesting and would probably not been on my list of 1000 greatest films but it would be a definite film that any Bergman enthusiast should watch sometime.