On New Year's Eve, the driver of a ghostly carriage forces a drunken man to reflect on his selfish, wasted life.On New Year's Eve, the driver of a ghostly carriage forces a drunken man to reflect on his selfish, wasted life.On New Year's Eve, the driver of a ghostly carriage forces a drunken man to reflect on his selfish, wasted life.
Sjöström also plays that main character, and gives us a great performance in depravity. Among other things, he scorns help from charitable women in the Salvation Army by ripping up repairs to his jacket one spent all night mending, openly tries to pass along his disease (consumption) to others, and after tracking down his wife and small children, hacks down a door with an axe to get at them. It's pretty dark stuff. As he faces an avalanche of guilt over the consequences of his actions and his own impending fate, can he be redeemed? It's a weighty question that would later absorb Ingmar Bergman, who idolized Sjöström, and the link between the two provides additional interest. Aside from the influence the film had on Bergman, 36 years later Sjöström would play the main character in 'Wild Strawberries'. It's also notable that 'The Phantom Carriage' was one of Stanley Kubrick's favorites from the silent era, and that he, too, was influenced when he put together Jack Nicholson's axe scene from 'The Shining'.
As with many of the films from this time period, it drags in places to modern eyes, as interchanges between characters via intertitles and elongated facial expressions sometimes get a little tedious. It's also ultimately a morality tale, which may put some viewers off – and yet, I found the devotion and faith of the Salvation Army sister, as well as the prayer to 'mature one's soul' before dying to be uplifting. We see the dual nature of man in the film, good and evil, and it's put into the larger context of our mortality. It's fantastical, and yet we realize that someday death will come for us all, and whether we believe in an afterlife or not, we hope that we've done good things for others in the world. Well worth watching.
- Dec 10, 2017