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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 <email@example.com>
"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.
This seems to be one that divides fans of the master, but I loved it. It's easy to see why people see this as being a bit of an odd-one-out in Bergman's output: it's very direct in it's depiction of disturbed states of mind, directly illustrating hallucinatory states rather than just hinting at them. Others have pointed to references to other films of the horror genre, which seem undeniable.
Not that you'd mistake this for a film by anyone but Bergman. It's rich in connections with other of his films and autobiographical references (such as the terrifying description of being locked in a cupboard as a child). It can be reasonably thought of as Bergman's 'horror film' but he takes on the genre very much on his own terms.
It's a film that lingers long in the mind, with many unforgettable scenes (including the amazing Magic Flute scene) aided by Sven Nykvist's wonderful chiaroscuro photography. The use of music is (as ever with Bergman, the most musical of directors) extremely intelligent: the scene with the boy is set apart from the rest as much by the music as the photography.
Given the quality of the cast, you'd expect superb performances. As ever, von Sydow and Ullmann are excellent, with equally good supporting performances.
At times I was reminded of Rilke's only novel, The Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge. If you don't know this, I urge you to seek out a copy: there's a distinctly Bergmanesque atmosphere to the whole work, but there are specific images that seem to link to this film.
This is a film that repays repeated viewings. Despite it's extremely disturbing subject matter, to me it's not as emotionally draining as many of Bergman's other films (such as Shame or Winter Light), in spite of (or perhaps because of) the visual horrors on display. Still, I recommend it very highly.
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