Hour of the Wolf (1968)

I’m told that it would be unthinkable for anyone who’s seriously interested in films to not see this. I can’t exactly fathom why. That’s the kind of reasoning I’d except to see with regards to genuine classics like Casablanca. Nonetheless I took a gander at this Swedish art film from Ingmar Bergman, which is purported to be a surreal psychological horror film. It certainly has an experimental feel to it, and is certainly interesting, but it’s not one of the best films I’ve seen, mainly because it’s so quiet and slow. That doesn’t make it a bad film.

The plot of the film is explained in the opening title cards. An artist named Johan Borg lives with his wife Alma on the island of Baltrum where he is taking refuge after an unexplained crisis that took place prior to the events of the film. But he is visited by bizarre and disturbing visions, and approached by suspicious characters, and towards the end he breaks down while confronting some of his repressed desires.

At first I had little idea of what to make of this film, and that’s chiefly because not much happened at all, at least for the first half of the film. The second half of the film was where things truly got interesting, with strange occurrences, and some pretty creepy stuff. My main issue with the film as it stands is the pacing. It’s a slow buildup to the horrors that lie in wait, but before then is some fairly boring conversation. I suppose that’s supposed to reflect on the serenity of the life on a remote island that the main characters live for the first part of the film, but it is a bit confusing because you’re wondering what film you’re even watching.

The acting is actually quite decent, good even. The film is in Swedish, but there are subtitles for English speakers. I feel that Max von Sydow plays the part of the troubled artist rather well, if rather quietly, but as the film’s atmosphere becomes more tensed, he portrays more of a psychotic character, and towards the end he dissolves into a figuartive pool of cinematic madness.

That’s pretty much all I can really say about Hour of the Wolf. It was a good film if you want something that will stimulate your cinematic tastebuds, but to my mind, it seemed to be more suited to the more snobbish cineasts out there.

  • Score: 70%
  • Grade: C

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