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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
The earliest Swedish film included among the '1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die', edited by Steven Jay Schneider. See more »
What can I do? What are the words, the prayer - the words?
A sinner whose lips are stained with wickedness, asks, beseeches - Oh, break me, crush me, only save these three innocent ones!
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This is perhaps among the best movies ever made. If you rent it or buy it, and take the time to see it you will never regret it. If you are tired of reviews, you can stop reading here....now run along and get it.
Based on Nobel laureate Selma Lagerlöfs tale about a carriage driving around on New Years eve, collecting the souls of the dead.The tale is at once a ghost story, a morality and a social statement much like the best of Charles Dickens. The film was made when movies were very young but as with many of those pictures by Lang, Murnau, Wiene and even Stiller, they remain very modern both in language and story. (In those days the best movies were made in Europe; Griffith seems ridiculous compared to this.)
The film was made in heaven by a true genius, Victor Sjöström. By the time he started to dabble with pictures he was an actor employed by the Swedish Royal Dramatic Theatre. He not only directed the movie, he played one of the main characters and built the backgrounds when needed. To help him along came camera man Julius Janzon and those two created magic much like Orson Welles and Gregg Toland would do on Citizen Kane, later.
If you're not simply captured by the movie, think of this: Janzon double exposed up to x9 to gain the ghost effects; on a hand turned movie camera.
For Sjöström, just to prove his genius, he moved to Hollywood to make a few movies including masterful renditions like "He Who Gets Slapped" with Lon Chaney and "The Scarlet letter" with Lilian Gish. Both are masterpieces and if you see these movies you will recognize Sjöströms mark. Some say he left Hollywood, disappointed, after having seen Stiller been treated bad by Hollywood's "industry". Legend or not, he did leave.
Ingmar Bergman gave Sjöström a tender and loving exit part; a beautiful homage; in his legendary "Wild Strawberries" from 1957. Sjöström played old professor of medicine, Isaac Borg, traveling through Sweden and at the same time through the memories of his life. Wild Strawberries in turn is another legendary film...but that's another story.
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