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It's New Year's Eve. Three drunkards evoke a legend. The legend tells that the last person to die in a year, if he is a great sinner, will have to drive during the whole year the Phantom Chariot, the one that picks up the souls of the dead... David Holm, one of the three drunkards, dies at the last stroke of midnight... Written by
Director Victor Sjöström traveled up to author Selma Lagerlöf's house in Mårbacka to read the scenario out loud. He acted out the whole screenplay in front of her before crashing down on a sofa, totally exhausted. She looked at the director for a long time and then asked he would care for a drink. That was her seal of approval. See more »
This film is a masterpiece to put it simply. Especially the double exposure made by the cameraman Julius Jaenzon. It is skillfully made even with the standards we are used to today seventy eight years later. Viktor Sjöström, the director, also plays the main character, David Holm. On the night of new years eve he is killed in a fight, and the legend says that the first one who dies on the new year, will have to work as a soul-collector in the form of a transparent ghost. There is a new soul-collector to be appointed every year.
The scene in which the alcoholic, David Holm, rises up from his dead body (like the soul is leaving his earthly body) in the churchyard (where the fight took place) is a real award for a filmloving eye. Also when the present soul-collector arrives with his horse and carriage is a beautiful but also a scary scene. David Holm recognizes this soul-collector as a drinkingfriend from earlier life. It is now his turn to take over. Just like Scrooge in Dickens story "A christmas tale", David is shown what his life and doings has led to for the people around him.
The film is about the danger of abusing drugs, in this case alcohol. It is based upon a book by Nobel prize winner Selma Lagerlöf. Viktor Sjöström filmed a few more of her books, but this is the one with the best outcome, maybe because this book is the most filmic of them.
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