The Magician

Sometime in the 19th century, a traveling group of performers who claim to have supernatural abilities are taken in by a consul (Erland Josephson) who is interested in what they can do. Ingmar Bergman moved from the Middle Ages in The Seventh Seal (1957) to the 1800s with a story that emphasizes the delicate, frail situation of an artist, constantly treated with contempt by those in power. Uneven, with mysterious, supernatural appearances, nightly moments of despair and amusing, lustful banter between men and women. The cast is terrific, including Max von Sydow as the mute magician and Gunnar Björnstrand as a deliciously smug doctor.

1958-Sweden. 101 min. B/W. Produced by Allan Ekelund. Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. Cinematography: Gunnar Fischer. Cast: Max von Sydow (Albert Emanuel Vogler), Ingrid Thulin (Manda Vogler), Gunnar Björnstrand (Anders Vergerus), Naima Wifstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Bibi Andersson… Lars Ekborg, Toivo Pawlo, Erland Josephson, Sif Ruud, Ulla Sjöblom.

Trivia: Original title: Ansiktet.

Venice: Special Jury Prize.

Last word: “As I remember it, the police chief in ‘The Magician’ is a consciously calculated target. He represents my critics. I was a rather good-natured jest with everyone who wanted to keep me in line and master me. […] The health official […] was born out of an irresistible desire to take a small revenge on Harry Schein. Schein was the movie critic at Bonniers litterära magasin, which at the time was a heavyweight cultural organ. Schein is intelligent and arrogant, and what he wrote was echoed in the inner circles. I felt that he treated me in an exceedingly humilating manner, which he later insisted that he did not do.” (Bergman, “Images: My Life in Film”)

 

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