Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Magician (1958 film)

Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, Ansiktet (The Magician) is the story of a traveling magician who arrives into a small town where he and his troupe are asked to perform a sample of their tricks to disprove suspicions of the supernatural. The film is an exploration into a man who wants to perform magic as he copes with those who believe that he’s up to no good. Starring Max von Sydow, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Naima Wifstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Bibi Andersson, and Erland Josephson. Ansiktet is a whimsical and mesmerizing film from Ingmar Bergman.

Set in the mid-19th Century in Sweden, the film revolves a traveling magician and his troupe who arrive in a small town where they have to contend with a group of town officials who want to prove that their so-called magic is nothing but a ruse. It’s a film that plays into the idea of what is real against what is fantasy as it is told in the span of an entire day where this magician has to prove to these men of science and facts to see that he is not a fraud as he is given a night to prepare for what he does. It’s a film with a simple plot where it is about the people living in this lavish townhouse in the middle of this small town as this magician named Albert Vogler (Max von Sydow) observes a lot of what is around him as he remains silent despite the attempts of intellectual doctors who think he’s faking it.

Much of the film’s two acts revolves around the preparation of the act as a preview while members of the troupe socialize with maids and cooks along with the people in the house. Its third act isn’t just about the performance but also the aftermath where it plays into this reality vs. fantasy idea and how science sometimes can’t prove what is real. Ingmar Bergman’s script also plays into the characters and the roles they play as Vogler is a very ambiguous character whose assistant Mr. Aman (Ingrid Thulin) is really a woman in disguise while those who want to discredit them include the house’s host Consul Egerman (Erland Josephson) and Dr. Vergarus (Gunnar Bjornstrand). All of which are playing into this game of who can outwit who.

Bergman’s direction is quite simple in terms of his compositions yet manages to find ways to inject elements of humor, drama, and horror into an entire film. Notably as he maintains something intimate for scenes set at the carriage or inside the house where there is a lot of things that are going on. Even as some of the comical moments involve one of the troupe members in Tubal (Ake Fridell) who spends his time flirting with women or somber moment where Egerman’s wife (Gertrud Fridh) is trying to seduce Vogler. Bergman’s usage of medium shots do play into Vogler’s stage performance as well as the approach to comedy and intrigue while horror would come later in the film to play into the idea of fantasy vs. reality. Overall, Bergman crafts a very delightful and mesmerizing film about a magician going into a battle of wits against a group of intellectual scientist and town leaders. 

Cinematographer Gunnar Fischer does amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography from his usage of shades and shadows for scenes at night including some rich interior shots with its usage of natural light as it is among one of the film‘s highlights. Editor Oscar Rosander does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the film‘s suspenseful moments along with its comedic moments. Production designer P.A. Lundgren does fantastic work with the look of the carriage as well as the rooms in the house where many of the characters converge to.

Costume designers Greta Johansson and Manne Lindholm do brilliant work with the costumes that play into the period of the 1840s from the clothes the men wear to the dresses of the women. The sound work of Ake Hansson and Aaby Wedin is superb for the sound effects that are created for some of the film‘s eerie and suspenseful moments as it plays into what Vogler is able to do as a magician. The film’s music by Erik Nordgren is wonderful for its array of music scores from whimsical numbers to more somber, string-based pieces to play into the drama as it is among one of the highlights of the film.

The film’s phenomenal cast include some notable small roles from Axel Duberg and Oscar Ljung as a couple of servants where the latter would contribute to a trick, Ulla Sjoblom as a police superintendent’s wife who succumbs to a magic trick, Toivo Pawlo as the police superintendent, Sif Ruud as the house cook Sofia, Bengt Ekerot as a drunken actor named Johan Spegel Vogler would pick up early in the film, Naima Wifstrand as Vogler’s very brash and outspoken grandmother, Lars Ekborg as the troupe’s stagecoach driver, Ake Fridell as the troupe’s charismatic spokesman, and Bibi Andersson as a young maid named Sara who would fall for the stagecoach driver. Gertrud Fridh is fantastic as a consul’s wife who goes to Vogler as she is still reeling from the loss of her child while Erland Josephson is excellent as Consul Egerman who wants to discredit and disprove Vogler’s tricks.

Gunnar Bjornstrand is amazing as Dr. Vergerus as a minister of health official who wants to see if he can discredit Vogler while he attempts to seduce Mr. Aman knowing that Aman is a woman. Ingrid Thulin is brilliant as Mr. Aman as a woman posing as Vogler’s assistant in order to maintain a role that she doesn’t want to reveal while being Vogler’s conscious of sorts. Finally, there’s Max von Sydow in a remarkable performance as Albert Emanuel Vogler where it’s a very restrained performance von Sydow doesn’t say a word for most of the film as he presents someone that seems tormented and overwhelmed in what he needs to prove to these men who are skeptical of his work.

Ansiktet is a sensational film from Ingmar Bergman that features an incredible performance from Max von Sydow. While it is a film that mixes all sorts of genres as well as play into Bergman’s own views on skepticism vs. faith in the form of entertainment. It is also a film that has Bergman pay tribute of sorts to the world of magic and what it could be for those that just want a bit of escape. In the end, Ansiktet is an extraordinary film from Ingmar Bergman.

Ingmar Bergman Films: (Crisis) - (It Rains on Our Love) - (A Ship to India) - (Music of Darkness) - (Port of Call) - (Prison) - (Thirst (1949 film)) - (To Joy) - (This Can’t Happen Here) - (Summer Interlude) - Secrets of Women - Summer with Monika - Sawdust and Tinsel - A Lesson in Love - Dreams - Smiles of a Summer Night - The Seventh Seal - (Mr. Sleeman is Coming) - Wild Strawberries - (The Venetian) - (Brink of Life) - (Rabies) - The Virgin Spring - The Devil’s Eye - Through a Glass Darkly - Winter Light - The Silence - All These Women - Persona - (Simulantia-Daniel) - Hour of the Wolf - (Shame (1968 film)) - (The Rite) - The Passion of Anna - (The Touch) - Cries & Whispers - Scenes from a Marriage - (The Magic Flute) - (Face to Face) - (The Serpent’s Egg) - Autumn Sonata - From the Life of the Marionettes - Fanny & Alexander - (After the Rehearsal) - (Karin’s Face) - (The Blessed Ones) - (In the Presence of a Clown) - (The Image Makers) - Saraband

© thevoid99 2015


Anonymous said...

I'm super excited to see this one. I have it on my DVR and will be watching it soon!!!

thevoid99 said...

There's always an opportunity to see something from Bergman as there's a bunch of films of his that I still haven't seen. It was on TCM and I needed to see it. After all, if I ever get the chance to see everything. He will become a big Auteurs subject in the future.