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10/10
Genuine horror
neil-31330 July 2005
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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one of bergman's best
John7 November 2001
a lot of even of the most loyal bergman fans claim that they came away from this one confused and irritated, and found it lacking in meaningful symbolism. i wonder if they watched the same movie i did?? this is just about one of the most intriguing, imaginative horror movies i've ever seen, and it is indispensable for those who enjoy the occasional dip into the proverbial pool of cinematic madness and mental derangement. i'm not in uncritical praise of everything bergman made, and some of his movies are admittedly a bit heavy handed and depressing, but i see this one as an example of what he could do when he decided to go all out. johann (max von sydow) and alma (liv ullmann)are husband and wife, and sydow's character is basically a tormented artist who has moved to the deceptively serene and quiet island with his wife to collect himself and try to escape his personal demons. to say the least, it doesn't exactly pan out that way. i believe the constant darkness and atmosphere of chaos and fear in the film is a metaphor for the human condition, because when you really reflect on it, we can never tell if the impressions we get and the ideas we have are projections of our imaginations or have some basis in reality, just as johann and his loyal wife cannot tell if these superficially amiable but suspiciously odd people are really there or are illusory creations of his mind. lindhorst, 'the birdman', is a particularly chilling character, and i would venture to say that the scene in which he puts on a puppet show for the couple and the rest of the socialites/demons is the key to the film. lindhorst creates a scene from mozart's "the magic flute", and recites (during a truly haunting close up), the dialogue from a scene crucial to the meaning of the symphony. one of the crucial characters, tamino (and anyone into mozart will understand what i'm talking about)collapses in the *palace of wisdom*, that is, a terrible place where he has discovered the tragic truth about human life and it's meaninglessness, and asks desperately "when will mine eyes the daylight see?" lindhorst is quick to recite the reply:"soon, soon fair youth..or never." he then goes on to talk about how mozart was terminally ill at the time of it's composition, and i would not be surprised if this entire scene was a metaphor for the artists' struggle with the fact of death and it's crushing finality:how can the creative individual, more sensitive to the issue of ultimate meaning as regards the human condition, be content or happy with anything when he knows that the world just might be and probably is what thomas carlyle called it, "an uncaring hall of doom"? how can we be sure of our meanings, when they could be wishful projections of our own minds, when the beliefs we have about ourselves and others cannot be purely objective or subjective? if this is the case, don't we necessarily live in a shadow house of illusions and absurdities? anyone with half a brain can see that there IS existential symbolism in this film. rich, unbearably tense, masterful horror and surrealism at it's finest. buy it.
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10/10
Depressing but Captivating
Hitchcoc23 October 2001
I don't know why I'm so fascinated with Ingmar Bergman. When I was in college, I went to a film society screening of this film. I hadn't seen Wild Strawberries or The Seventh Seal at the time and this was a real mind blower. There are all those shades of darkness. There are those depressed looking people, haunted by those personal demons. There is Bergman's island, so lonely, so cold. The other inhabitants always seem so threatening. The artist, writing about affairs, assaults, murder, and we don't know whether any of it is true. I suffer through the party with all those pretentious people and their angst. This party is only eclipsed by the one in Alice in Wonderland . The people are truly beasts. Bergman is about bad dreams. The camera pulls us through our deepest fears and dumps us in that dark, evil swamp. I know this is often seen as one of his minor films, but his getting ready to meet his former lover, putting on that makeup to look younger and recapture his past virility, is so gut wrenching.

This is a depressed feast for the eyes and it puts mental illness into corporeal form.
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9/10
"The hour when ghosts and demons are most powerful"
Galina26 April 2007
"Hour of the Wolf" (1968) is one of my favorite Bergman's films. I place it close to "Persona" to which it is a perfect matching piece. This impressive and disturbing movie about the loss of sanity by a tormented artist is another magnificent work of Ingmar Bergman, the closest to the horror genre he ever directed with his regular actors, Max von Sydow who is amazing as Johan and his Muse Liv Ullmann who is equally compelling as Alma, Jonah's wife. The film takes place on an isolated, windy island where Johan and pregnant Alma moved in hope for Johan to work on his paintings and where he is haunted by nightmares from the past that may or may not be just his dreams. They come to torture him during The Hour of the Wolf which Bergman describes as "the hour between night and dawn. It is the hour when most people die, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are more real. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts and demons are most powerful. The Hour of the Wolf is also the hour when most children are born."

Bergman has always been obsessed and fascinated by the inner demons that imagination can create and like no other filmmaker has explored the deepest mysteries of human soul and mind.

Surrealistic, Gothic and dark horror film, with its magnificent black and white cinematography provided by Bergman's long time friend and collaborator, Sven Nykvist, "The Hour of the Wolf" is a frightening view of the mind of a mad person.

It's been mentioned in more than one comment and I agree that David Lynch might have seen "Hour of the Wolf" more than once and was influenced by it when working on his own dark and surrealistic "Erazerhead".

9.5/10
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A bottomless pit of pure psychological horror and endless interpretation
Graham Greene7 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Sometimes broadly categorised as a horror film, Hour of the Wolf (1966) is in fact one of director Ingmar Bergman's most potent and interesting examinations of the artistic psyche, with all of the usual psychological elements and interpretations that such a subject can present. The film was initially devised alongside the more widely acknowledged masterpiece Persona (1966) as a secondary element of that film's already complicated narrative design. Along the way, Bergman presumably decided that the intense psycho-sexual relationship between patient and nurse presented by Persona was strong enough to survive on its own, so, took out the broader aspects of artistic breakdown, ego, guilt and paranoia, and created this particular film around them.

The presentation of the story begins well enough; with the characters retreating to a small island off the Swedish coast and living out a quaint and idyllic honeymoon period of love and creativity. However, right away we see Bergman presenting the audience with a series of questions; questions that suggest certain unspoken elements of this couple and their shared past, with the major question being along the lines of why would these particular characters, loving and charming as they seem, want to remove themselves so completely from the outside world? Are they hiding from something? Perhaps so, and you could certainly draw parallels here with the central themes of Bergman's later, oddly inter-linked character studies Shame (1968) and A Passion (1969), in which characters haunted by the past and at odds with society retreat from certain events and further into themselves. As with those particular films, the characters of Hour of the Wolf find that the solitude they so dearly sought bring out the very demons that their escape was attempting to exorcise, creating in the process a hellish, psychological landscape where they find themselves repeating the same actions, events and mistakes, as if existing within some tortured loop.

As the film progresses, Johan and Alma, the couple at the centre of this claustrophobic drama, realise that they are not alone on the island; with the local inhabitants coming to represent the frightening, unseen abstractions presented in the artist's work. Again, we are being asked a series of questions all pointing back to the character of Johan Borg and his relationship, not only with Alma, but with the inhabitants of the island and the mysterious cipher Veronica Vogler, who will reappear towards the end of the film. The horror aspect is not only psychological, which is of course fairly common for Bergman's work, particularly of this era, but also surprisingly physical; manifested in the old dark house and bizarre characters that come to populate the island and take an interest in Johan and his heavily pregnant wife.

You could argue that the film is somewhat muddled or small in scale compared to many of Bergman's other films from this era, in particular, the aforementioned Persona, as well Shame and A Passion, which are both equally as great. Even Bergman himself admits in his memoirs that the perspective of the film was never fully developed, despite his best efforts to correct the problems in post-production; something that no doubt led to the awkward, though never less than interesting creation of the confessional framing device. Here, Bergman to some extent pre-dates a film like The Blair Witch Project (1999) by some forty or so years by creating a work that claims to be based on a true story - in this instance, the psychological breakdown and disappearance of an artist, as documented by his own wife and diary entries - despite clearly being a work of fiction. From this the film becomes weighted from the perspective of Alma, the wife of the artist, who discusses her husband's final days with an unseen film crew.

Once we cut back into the real story and begin to unravel the central mystery of Johan Borg and the terrible demons that plague him, the perspective of the narrative switches once again, this time becoming entirely focused on the man; presenting us with his own fragmented memories, dreams and nightmares. This, for me, is a much more interesting angle to follow, despite misgivings from the filmmaker himself. Though some viewers have obviously found this device problematic, or even potentially distracting, the use of this continual juxtaposition of the character's central viewpoints works in favour of the drama, fragmenting the notions of fact and fiction even further and creating a really subtle shading of Borg's complex personality. You could also say that with this particular style of structure, Bergman is obscuring - perhaps accidentally - the true fate of Borg's character so that we, the audience, are never fully aware of what exactly is going on. We can make assumption of course, and draw conclusions from the snippets of information being offered to us by the characters and by Bergman himself, but the film ultimately closes with as many questions as it does suitable answers.

The imagery of Hour of the Wolf is very much in keeping with the imagery of Persona, though perhaps lacking the Brechtian sense of narrative deconstruction and cinematic self-reference in favour of the abstract, absurd and the morbidly surreal. As other reviewers have suggested, there is a touch of the Hammer House of Horror evident here, especially in the later scenes which take place in the old, Gothic mansion and some of the more outré images of psychological torment. However, the film never crosses over, remaining true to Bergman's personal style and preoccupation with character examination and self-analysis against a landscape of pure, existentialist dread.
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10/10
A Bergman vampire movie, but without any vampires- pure, Gothic chills
MisterWhiplash26 December 2004
Much like F.W. Murnau, or even David Lynch for that matter, Ingmar Bergman can create horror in a film, such as his rarity in the genre of Hour of the Wolf (no, no werewolves boys and girls, the title refers to something else entirely regarding the middle of the night), by imposing images that are so unbelievable as to either frighten or annoy. Bergman is no stranger to the surreal (Persona his most notorious feat, but surrealism lurks in many Bergman works), and Hour of the Wolf displays his skills at it with a precision that is un-canny. We're given a couple of characters thrust (not entirely by accident) into a strange atmosphere of people, locations, shadows, the night. And with this film, the audience is given images and scenes that are very new, even for a modern audience, but most of the film brings one back to the most chilling of the silent-film horror classics. But that's not to say this is a relatively accessible Bergman film, unless you are very much into the genre.

Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullman give strong performances as a couple (one an artist the other his pregnant wife) who arrive on an island to have some peace, where he can get some work done. But this is not the case as Von Sydow's character goes through a kind of deconstruction in the night- he can't sleep, he's shaken to intense uncomfort by neighbors, and a particular memory haunts him all the time (and once Bergman shows what it is, it becomes one of the most horrifying scenes I may have ever seen). If there is a climax to the film it's difficult to discern- the only flaw I had with the film, that sometimes it's almost TOO bizarre- however what leads up to it is a skillful work at experimental theatricality. Everything seems real enough to draw the audience in, and everything seems un-real enough for the audience to be disconnected enough to understand the surreal nature. To put it another way, it's a good film to scare the hell out of you as a midnight movie.
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10/10
Most hauntingly surreal
karl_consiglio12 February 2007
This film is extremely delicate. It deals within that thin line between genius and madness, reality and imagination as one and the same thing. Artist Johan Borg is haunted by demons of both past and present. His wife Alma loves him so intimately that she is prepared to dive deep into his inner world, desperate to help him, shares in his hallucinations, which is great but futile in the long run to where he must go alone. To me Bergman, along with Tarkovsky and only a few others like Fellini deal so splendidly with our most inner selves, our conscious and subconscious as in 'The Hour of the Wolf'. Here as in Fellini's 'Juliet of the Spirits' that which is real and that which is not is hardly the point. What matters here is the stirrings of the soul, hence Borg's fear of the dark and lack of sleep until the day breaks and he can finally get some rest.
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A dissenting view.
Michael Moricz23 June 2004
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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7/10
Max Von Sydow as the 'Exorcised' ...
ElMaruecan822 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"The Hour of the Wolf" refers to that particular moment between night and day where sleep is at its deepest, where most dreams -consequently nightmares- gets the realest feeling, where most people die and are born, where we're at the most fragile and vulnerable state. In the end, it is such a fascinating accumulation of superlatives of creepy undertones, it would've been impossible for an explorer of the human condition like Ingmar Bergman not to tackle it.

And to illustrate the eeriness of the titular notion, Bergman translates it into a mysterious pathology that took possession of a tortured artist's soul; a painter named Johan Borg and played by Max Von Sydow. The film is based on the fictional notes taken before his death (or disappearance?) and revealed in front of the camera by his widow (?) Alma, played by Liv Ullman. The two actors star again in a Bergmanian film in the same year than "Shame", Bergman's anti-war pamphlet but this is one more obscure and puzzling film, even by Bergman's standards.

In fact, the film made me realize that despite the heavy psychological material carried by most Bergman movies, they were pretty much straight-forward about their subject and at the end, it was always a part of our human condition that revealed to us, mirrored by our relationship with time, with God, with the others. It's like each Bergman's movie played like a piece of puzzle that would constitute a magnificent and intelligent study of the human soul. But "The Hour of the Wolf" is one of these pieces of the puzzle you don't know where to put.

This is not to separate the film from Bergman's other works, it's his first and –I guess- only take on supernatural and surrealistic material, and the result is aesthetically nightmarish and conveys well the horror inhabiting Johan's soul, but Bergman, as inaccessible as he is, always found a way to guide us to his characters, even at the price of a second viewing. I wanted to understand what was going into Johan's mind, was that sickness? Hallucinations? In a way, Alma mirrors these very feelings and like her, we want to know more about him.

Some shadows of answers come when she sneaks into his diary, the reading episodes provide the first hints: one creepy dream involving a kid trying to kill him and an idyll with a girl named Vogler and played by Ingrid Thullin. Shot in high contrast and with a pretty furious editing, the kid's killing and drowning is one of the most disturbing sequences I've ever seen, my guess is that it supposed to evoke the repression of some childhood episodes, and maybe the child Johan kills is himself, the clue comes from his revelation of a childhood trauma later to Alma.

The Vogler episode is echoed during a dinner where the couple meets a group of rich and eccentric slobs to the limits of perversity bourgeois (lead by Erland Josephson). They all seem to know about Johans' affair. They're obnoxious, uneducated, aggressive, one of the lady literally jumps at Johans, Josephson's wife implies that they try to take him from his wife, they're the closest players to the antagonists, and leave us a sentiment of total discomfort, like these creepy nightmares where we don't know where we are but can't wait to get the hell out.

I guess "The Hour of the Wolf" encapsulates this feeling of continuous entrapment and impossibility to escape from a situation without getting through it, it's probably these repressed feelings that come back to the surface to better torture us. Maybe it's a surrealistic definition of guilt, guilt from one man's weakness. Which might explain that Johan decided to isolate himself from the world in the remote house leaving a peaceful and dull life with Alma, while he's lived quite a torturous and much more cinematically appealing life?

And maybe the third act is the price he finally paid by not being totally sincere with his wife. It's made of a whole long sequence where they search Max in the forest, while he's in the castle and must play some twisted and pervert games, nudity, make-up, crows, all the most unsettling archetypes of nightmares are used … and at the end, nothing but absence, absence of Max, of explanations … "The Hour of the Wolf" leaves many interrogations, and so does the film. Right now, I'm still having this 'what the hell did I see?' expression I had when it ended.

I certainly wouldn't be a fan of Bergman if I had seen this first, but because I'm a fan, I try to see the film with more magnanimous eyes. I can accept the absence of definite answers and the way Bergman drowns his work into his own creativity, my take is that Bergman invites us to embrace these moments where we're directly haunted by our own demons, where we must face the true facet of our personality, when the nightmare gets its realest feeling, perhaps the closest moment in life is when it looks like a nightmare.

"The Hour of the Wolf" is certainly the closest Bergman's film to a nightmare and I wonder if the deliberate noises he made at the beginning of the film were made to reassure us that we were only watching a film, as to insist that no matter how creepy this stuff is, it's still the product of one's imagination. I guess I prefer Bergman when he approaches our reality, but even the way we handle our reality is conditioned by our subconscious, and all the feelings we try to repress. Maybe this is "The Hour of the Wolf", this moment where for some reason; we have good reasons to act irrational.

But I certainly wouldn't recommend it as a first Bergman's film.
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6/10
Incredible.
Ben Parker15 February 2004
Hour of the Wolf is nothing short of incredible. Certainly the scariest horror/thriller i've ever seen. Forget Psycho, forget Friday the 13th, forget everything you know about thrills and chills. Hour of the Wolf is actually scary, and in a good way (unlike foul ventures such as Urban Legend 2 or Exorcist 2). What i mean is, its a brilliantly enjoyable movie to watch. Matchless performances, gorgeous photography and a script with perfectly sustained and developed suspense, a delicious sense of the surreal which has clearly been a big influence on David Lynch, and a gradual revealing of the characters which is a marvel to watch and a lesson to filmmakers the world over. The characters in Bergman are as rich as in the best literature. I'll see Hour of the Wolf again for its surrealism, its enigma, and its depth. 9/10.
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8/10
dark and haunting portrait of one man's inner demons
cheese_cake20 August 2003
a man moves to a remote island with his wife. he cannot sleep at night and is tormented by inner demons. the film tracks this madness of his. excellent performances by max snydow and liv ullman. the cinematography is beautiful and precise. as is usual with bergman's films, it is not clear on first viewing what the movie is all about. why the man is tormented, is a mystery, at least to me.
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8/10
we are drawn in further, as is she
christopher-underwood20 March 2008
Our early encounters with Johan Borg, played by the enigmatic, Max von Sydow do not encourage our sympathy. The painter seems troubled but boorish with it and something of a bully. Liv Ullmann is wonderful as his long suffering wife, Alma, and really tries to help her husband overcome his illness. This is the reason they are on the (deserted?) island, to give him a chance to overcome his demons. And what demons! For the first half of the film we are about as bemused as Alma as to what is going on with all the various encounters, but as the film progresses we are drawn in further, as is she. The artist overcome by his own creative imaginings or a sick man struggling with his nightmares? Can one tell the difference in the end? As the two main characters finally fall in together, dragging us with them a full blown Gothic melodrama opens up and almost engulfs us all. Most original and horrifying work. I don't know if it was just me but I had to play this with 'hard of hearing' English as I could find no other English track on the DVD.
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8/10
Don't be afraid of this film if you like art films.
un_samourai24 May 2005
It's not that scary or disturbing. From some of the comments here on IMDb I was expecting quite a tough film to sit through. It isn't exactly cheery, but I did crack the occasional smile at Bergman's homage to various Horror films. It is as beautifully lit and framed as Persona, and if you like Liv Ullman, and/or Max Von Sydow, you'll want to see this for their very good performances. It is sometimes "Lynch" like, sometimes "Fellini" like, but not nearly as disturbing as say Mulholland Drive. See it if you're a Bergman fan, or if you like movies with a surreal sense. I bought the DVD on Bergman's reputation (I've seen about 25 of his pictures, and loved, around 20 of them). I was not disappointed in the least.
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8/10
The Madness Process of a Disturbed Artist
Claudio Carvalho2 August 2004
The painter Johan Borg (Max von Sydow) and his wife Alma Borg (Liv Ullmann) have been married for seven years and are living in an island. Johan is haunted by nightmares of his past. Through his notes in his diary, his wife realizes his madness process. In the end, after living with him for such a long period, she questions her sanity and what is real.

This impressive and disturbing movie about the lost of sanity by a tormented artist is another magnificent work of Ingmar Bergman, again with his favorite actor (Max von Sydow) and actress (Liv Ullmann). A very Gothic and dark horror movie, it is a frightening view of the mind of a mad person. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): 'A Hora do Lobo' ('The Hour of the Wolf')
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10/10
Welcome to Realm: Psyche
Mogopolis200029 September 2004
Few filmmakers are able to capture the entire processes of mental reality. In reality few people even bother to trouble about the internal projection of mental activity into reality. And for those people, the is film would in deed be out of context.

But for any concerned with subjective reality, Bergman is not just strong in that area, but creates text books of different concepts. Yes, these concepts are

embedded in the film, and not told to you like the fine people of McGraw-Hill choose to do. So you actually have to think what is going on.

And that is this little idea that we tremble at the idea of hearing. Psychotic Hallucinations. Hey it's just a part of living. The more disturbing of these

hallucinations, are usually the ones the person is not aware of. And that's what Max Von Sydow is vehicle to portray.

The film is designed to develop a set of questions into the viewers mind, These questions, ongoing through most generations, were current for the times this

was created. However, and this is unfortunate in regards to the overall decline of American film culture (and to a lesser extent European film culture), these questions are still current. The new line of questioning has yet to be developed, so a film like Hour of the Wolf, modernist in experimental tradition, holds more relevance to the decline of post-modern culture then many of the homage

derived films released in recent times. A film maker like David Lynch, can very easily be said to be adapting this technique, into a more palpable "journey

focused" film which modern movie crowds are drawn to.

This film is also a maverick in Bergman's extensive portfolio. It is in between his "Faith" trilogy and his other trilogy which Persona, Shame, and Passion of

Anna are apart of. His thematic focus was more on Insanity and psychotic

destruction of morals, a different path from projective identification (Persona), depression (Winter Light), and fatalist allegory (Seven Seal). In bears

similarities to Passion of Anna, which is in many ways a female version of the same subject matter. But Bergman introduces a new focus in his psycho- dynamics in each of his films.
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10/10
One of my favorite Bergman films
headtrauma42019 April 2004
It seems as though everything Ingmar Bergman touches turns to gold. VARGTIMMEN is is no exception. Beautifully directed and truly frightening.

The acting is also incredible. Liv Ullman and the larger than life Max Von Sydow give wonderful performances as does the supporting cast.

This film is the epitome of gothic horror, with that Ingmar Bergman flare that seems to make all of his films a religious experience for film buffs around the world. Bergman is one of the greatest film directors who ever lived and this film helps prove it.It's great for established Bergman fans and is accesible enough for those who are interested in Bergman's work. Highly recommended!
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Deeply disturbing
mrfrane29 January 2004
I saw this film in an art house when it was first released in the US, and it remains the scariest, most unsettling movie I've ever seen. I don't remember how many times I had to leave to buy popcorn, just to get away from the images on the screen, but it was a banner day for the concession stand. I think the film is brilliant, but I honestly have no desire ever to see it again, even 35 years later. Nope. No thanks.
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In a Lonely Place
tieman6410 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"I will no longer mutilate and destroy myself in order to find a secret behind the ruins." - Hermann Hesse

Ingmar Bergman directs "Hour of the Wolf". First image: a black screen, over which we hear the sounds of a camera crew setting up a shot. We then get a close-up of Alma (Liv Ullman), the pregnant wife of Johan (Max von Sydow). Alma's speaking to a documentary crew, and relating a very disturbing tale. This tale, she states, is about the "disappearance of an artist".

Alma narrates a tale to us. She informs us that she and Johan escaped to a remote island. As Johan is a painter, the couple hope that this location will provide Johan with both inspiration and the solitude necessary to pursue his art. As Johan has been in an adulterous affair, it is also hoped that the island will bring husband and wife together. Bergman himself had a relationship with Ullman, with whom he fathered a child. The couple split soon after "Wolf's" release.

Things don't go well for Johan and Alma. Johan is immediately "pulled away" from his wife, his artwork drawing him away from their rustic home and out toward the morose waves and craggy cliffs which line the island. As Johan is pulled toward his art, becomes more self-involved, Alma becomes miserable. What could possibly interest her husband more than his wife? What is out there? What's calling him? Seeking answers, Alma begins reading Johan's diary.

Johan's diary speaks of encounters with five "demonic figures", which Johan calls the "bird-man", "spider-man", "meat-eater", "insect" and "the lady with the hat". All five characters "want a piece of Johan", and together become Bergman's metaphor for the insecurities of self-loathing artists. Whilst Johan praises Alma for being "one person", "consistent" and "whole", he berates himself for being "constantly pulled off in all directions by the demons". "They want you for themselves," an upset Alma says, "and it's harder for them if I'm here!" Bergman's point is clear: the artist belongs to no one human being. Can not even belong to himself. Temperamental, insecure and with an identity always in flux, he is not even sure "who he is".

Alma, of course, doesn't understand Johan's plight. She wants him, fully, always, but the now suicidal Johan can't commit to this. To commit is itself a kind of charade. "I can help you!" Alma insists, but Johan brushes her aside. Baffled, Alma begins to attribute Johan's behaviour to demonic possession.

Bergman's monsters are largely the product of a husband and a wife's imaginings. Alma is interpreting Johan's diaries far too literally, and Johan is assigning meaning - using the motifs of the horror genre - to psychological behaviour he doesn't fully understand. Because both spouses are confused, ascertaining the "meaning" of the film's five "demons" thus becomes difficult. One "demon" is obviously a reference to Johan's past lover, whilst another is a reference to Baron von Merkens, a wealthy man whom the artist is simultaneously reliant upon, disgusted by and attracted to. Another "demon", an imp-like boy whom Johan kills, speaks to innocence lost, sexual experimentation, shame and also possible homosexuality. The fourth "demon", a man in an overcoat (Ulf Johansson), is both an "art critic" and "psychiatric curator". Johan knocks this figure to the ground, unwilling to hear his diagnoses. The fifth and final "demon" is an elderly woman in white – the "lady in the hat" - who speaks of secrets hidden under beds.

Bergman's third act begins with Alma and Johan attending a party at a castle in which all these figures have assembled. Whether they're a coven of witches, vampires, ghosts or merely a grotesque parody of a film-studio after-party, is left up to the audience. Regardless, the creatures all want a piece of Johan, who is able to fend them off only with the help of Alma. The film then ends with Johan abandoning Alma, who lasts sees her husband in the woods, being pulled in different directions by the "creatures". He then disappears.

Bergman's final scene finds Alma again addressing we the audience. Looking directly at us, she wonders whether living with a man long enough results in a woman "becoming like her husband". She then begins to blame herself for Johan's disappearance, wondering what she could have done to save the relationship. Should she blame herself? Should she assume responsibility for Johan's vanishing into thin air? Into himself? To the audience, though, it becomes clear that Alma must leave Johan – and so Ullman must leave Bergman – in order to retain her own sanity. The artist's isolation, insomnia and neuroses can be toxic. In pushing her away, Johan might very well have saved Alma from the monsters. By accepting Johan's "vanishing", Alma might have done the same.

"Hour of the Wolf's" title refers to what Bergman calls "the hour between night and dawn, when nightmares are most real". The title perhaps also refers to the netherworld in which the artist – often most creative at night – lives; a tormented place unfamiliar to most. The film's original title was "Cannibal", a more overt reference to the forces tearing Johan apart.

The "self-pitying", "tortured artist" archetype typically carries with it a lot of conceit and self-absorption. "Wolf", which essentially casts a self-lacerating Max Von Sydow as Bergman himself, is however largely devoid of vanity. Indeed, it at times mocks the creative inner lives of men. And all the while the film's concerns remain fixated on Alma. The monsters may tear apart Johan's body, but it is she for whom the film mourns. It is she for whom Bergman/Johan pines for, even when their love becomes an impossibility. Impeccably shot and lit by Sven Nykvist.

8/10 – See "Vincent and Theo" and "In a Lonely Place".
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10/10
*Liv's Eyes*
Jack-Nance18 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This is such a brilliant film...Actually, really truth be told, probably my favorite film (right there with Inland Empire ((though, I'm not sure I really consider that a 'film'))). This is just one of those very few movies where literally everything is perfect.

Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann's performances should be studied frame by frame by aspiring actors; Their on-screen presence and chemistry (despite all that is occurring) is unparalleled. The cinematography and sparse (though extremely effective) score are top-notch, as well.

I swear I could watch the puppet show scene over and over again (Mozart has never sounded so good...), but ahh - then I'd be missing out on the rest of the movie! It was interesting on my latest viewing, considering more and more what Liv Ullmann's role in this actually is. The film opens and closes with her in monologue, indicating what we are seeing are HER memories. Is it fair to say then that when Liv mentions at the end that after you live with a man for so long, you start to THINK LIKE HIM, SEE LIKE HIM, that our 'guide' may not be entirely reliable? Particularly when she says, "Was that why I began to see those ghosts? Or were they there anyway?" I had a kind of scary visual when I watched this last of poor Liv being completely delusional, alone in her cottage, with the von Sydow character simply a figment of her imagination...a ghost.

"...our fangs have remained intact".
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9/10
Has anyone ever woke at 3 am and could not sleep?
rotildao8 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I saw Vargtimmen back in 2004 for the first time, and recently for the second time. Interestingly, I never thought about the number of times I woke in the middle of the night, around that time, 3 a.m., and could not fall asleep again until last night. I guess Bergman catches us off guard in many circumstances and successfully reaches one's subconscious using any genre of movies there can be. The dream sequence with the kid will stay with you for some time. It will enter your thoughts with questions and hopefully some answers eventually. Dreams, reality, insomnia, memories,and someone like Liv Ullman's character to watch over you. For that, not falling asleep can be something darkly wonderful. I always imagined how would it be if we all could sleep less and not be affected by it, or eat less... if we could be stronger in a way, not like superman, but just a little stronger in a way, perhaps our subconscious would not even exist, or only fractions of it... but then... what would it be a world without Bergman's work? How would it be when I am awake in the middle of the night?
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8/10
Who Haunts the Artist?
ThurstonHunger24 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Who haunts the artist? His fans? His loves? His past? Himself?

This is effectively my first Bergman film and it was quite enthralling. Not sure why I was hesitant to see work by him previously? Perhaps his already being recognized as an auteur made me feel like I was too late to the party? Or perhaps the fact that Woody Allen always championed him jinxed me.

Dunno...but it was my mistake. Of course it looks like this is one of his more disputed films. Again I found it fascinating.

In watching this I didn't see this as a horror film, I guess at times I felt a twinge of an echo of "The Wickerman" maybe?? Isolated islands those always feel like a trip to the psych ward.

I like the idea that the ghosts to Max von Sydow's character are as fans are to any artist, perhaps even Bergman himself? There overriding desires and dilemmas get thrust upon the artist who must feel like a public park...appreciated and/or trodden upon by thousands.

Then there is the romantic angle, and this notion that Johan (the Borg ;>) has tried to escape wild passion for a more down-to-earth relationship, with a whole and wholesome woman. The idea that Johan feels incomplete in the throes of Veronica Vogler (great name!). That incomplete nature is both enticing and yet destabilizing. Casting his real-life partner as the wholesome lead ups the ante a bit too. Film what you know?

Or there is the idea that the artist is trying to transmute his pain, and perhaps Johan's upbringing and the punishments of his father produce the pearls of his adult art? Then is the boy suspended in the subconscious sea just Johan himself? Suffice it to say, that ghost or not...the scene on the rocks with the young boy was rough-going for me.

I guess another take could be that the ghosts in the mansion are cousins to the seven deadly sins? Embodiments of the evils that plague artists? Lecherous desire? Overriding solipsism? Arrogance? All cannibals looking to devour the artist above the art.

While the film might be a goldmine for academics and theses, I still found it a deranged delight. It may be that ultimately this film falls in love with its own strangitude too much, but I for one fell with it. And remain haunted by it...

Thurston Hunger 8/10
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10/10
The stuff nightmares are made of.
fred-8314 December 2006
This is a truly disturbing and frightening horror film, and one of Bergmans best, in my opinion. Here he balances on the edge between dream and reality in a way that is very effective, and seldom matched in his other works. We are not quite sure when we are inside or outside of Johans mind, if ever, the nature of the "demons" are all the more frightening in their ordinariness. The sequence with the little boy on the rocks makes the hair on my neck stand on end every time I watch it. The stuff nightmares are made of, and proof that you don't need tons of dollars, CGI and makeup to achieve a genuinely effective horror film. I would guess that this film has influenced, among others, Lynch and Clive Barker. There is a similar sense of claustrophobia in Hellraiser. The ending of Hellraiser also mirrors the ending of this film, although in a more graphic way.
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10/10
Truly intense, superb horror.
marcopop30 April 1999
This is the film about an artist (Max von Sydow), heavily troubled by nightmares, trying to deal with his life of anguish on a small island together with his wife. The film is creepy, intense, and very surreal.

I feel certain that David Lynch has watched this film more than once - there are echoes of it in both Eraserhead and the last episode of Twin Peaks.
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A truly haunting and horrifying film.
Horror Fan5 June 1999
A painter is haunted by horrific nightmares with ghosts and demons. He and his wife try to leave their home and retreat to an exotic island, but the nightmares are even worse there! This Ingrid Bergman film truly plunges the viewer into a state of suspense. It has a similar effect on you that the Japanese film Kwaidan does, it takes you to a creepy world were demons live and insane apparitions haunt you. Really a beautifully made film.
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1/10
Bombastic Bergman
kenjha1 February 2013
Liv relates story of her life with Max through flashbacks. Max, a disturbed artist, relates profound stories through flashbacks within flashbacks, or they may just be nightmares or hallucinations, or Bergman may have spliced in footage from the wrong film. The couple goes to a party but are too depressed to have a good time. They don't sleep for weeks but try to bore each other to sleep through dull stories and philosophical rants. Strange characters randomly pop in and out, including a boy who bites, a man who walks up walls, and a woman who removes her face and soaks her eyeballs in water. Any coherence in the narrative is purely unintentional on Bergman's part.
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