7.7/10
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74 user 62 critic

Hour of the Wolf (1968)

Vargtimmen (original title)
While vacationing on a remote Scandanavian island with his younger pregnant wife, an artist has an emotional breakdown while confronting his repressed desires.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Johan Borg
...
Alma Borg
Gertrud Fridh ...
Corinne von Merkens
Georg Rydeberg ...
Lindhorst, archivist
...
Baron von Merkens
Naima Wifstrand ...
Old Lady with Hat
Ulf Johansson ...
Therapist Heerbrand
Gudrun Brost ...
Gamla Fru von Merkens
Bertil Anderberg ...
Ernst von Merkens
...
Veronica Vogler
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Storyline

An artist in crisis is haunted by nightmares from the past in Ingmar Bergman's only horror film, which takes place on a windy island. During "the hour of the wolf" - between midnight and dawn - he tells his wife about his most painful memories. Written by Fredrik Klasson <fredrik.klasson@boras.mail.telia.com>

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"The Hour of the Wolf" is the hour between night and dawn. It is the hour when most people die. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts and demons are most powerful.

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Drama | Horror

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Release Date:

9 April 1968 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Hour of the Wolf  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Bergman defines "The Hour of the Wolf" as "The time between midnight and dawn when most people die, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are most palatable. It is the hour when the sleepless are pursued by their sharpest anxieties, when ghosts and demons hold sway. The hour of the wolf is also the hour when most children are born." According to "Films in Review" critic Henry Hart in the U.S. it's about 4 a.m. when the body's resistance is least. See more »

Quotes

Baron von Merkens: You see what you want to see!
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Connections

Referenced in Eraserhead (1977) See more »

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User Reviews

A dissenting view.
23 June 2004 | by (Astoria, NY) – See all my reviews

I can't agree with most of the comments above, and particularly find myself taking the completely opposing view to Adrian Ekdahl. While HOUR OF THE WOLF seems eminently worth viewing (what Bergman film isn't?), I think it's substantially less compelling and essential than SHAME, made the same year with the same two principal players.

It took me a long time to see VARGTIMMEN, and I've finally seen it tonight on the big screen. But while I feel it's an essential enough part of the overall Bergman canon, I'd have to place it squarely in the b-list as far as its coherence and overall effectiveness.

While it contains an unusual level of creepiness by Bergman standards (and a complete journey into surrealism, brief as it is, in the final reel that seems very un-Bergmanesque -- he loves his symbolic images, but rarely has he gone this ambiguously surreal route), the truth seems to be that many many directors have achieved more with this kind of film than this film does. Bergman seems a bit out of his element here. Because most of his films utilize his trademark techniques in the service of a subtle, finely-observed, provocative examination of some difficult aspect of human existence, VARGTIMMEN seems to lose its coherence quite a bit in pursuit of something which is admittedly unusual for Bergman.

Ultimately it seems to examine three themes: 1) Can we, if haunted by things that become inarticulable, go mad from them? 2) Can we, if we love or are attuned enough to those we love, share their demons with them? 3) Schizophrenia. (This appears to me to be what Johan Borg seems to be suffering from).

These are interesting themes, to be sure. But Bergman doesn't seem to really go very deeply into them. Instead, he's kind of skimming the surface (uncharacteristic for him) while enjoying (if that can be the right word) the ambiguity of our knowledge of what's going on. Strangely, while I rarely find Bergman emptily pretentious or needlessly arty (which he is obviously occasionally accused of), this film brought me as close to feeling that way as anything I've ever seen of his. Perhaps it's because he wasn't truly at home in these themes of supernatural/horror, etc. This film actually seems DERIVATIVE of better films, like a Franju's EYES WITHOUT A FACE or even DEAD OF NIGHT. Rarely does Bergman suffer in comparison with other filmmakers who came before him. SHAME (again, made that same year, virtually right after this film), is by contrast a deeply troubling, finely wrought examination of far more (to me) compelling, complex, essential and provocative human issues. I would return again and again to SHAME, but I feel no real need to see HOUR OF THE WOLF again.

It belongs in the canon, yes, and should be seen. But while it is a bit unusual visually, I think it winds up seeming rather minor thematically in the overall pantheon of his work.


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