Hour of the Wolf is another Ingmar Bergman film that stars Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann. Go figure. So, what theme will we be exploring with this one? Well, this time around, Bergman chooses to instead delve into the psyche of the artist within himself, through an artist main character and the entries of a personal diary that are read aloud as narrative structure. In doing so, Bergman for once explores the genre of horror, a genre that doesn’t seem befitting him at first glance, but once you see Hour of the Wolf, you’ll be surprised how well he does fit into the style.
The main character, played by von Sydow, is an artist troubled by various encounters with people that seem to only exist inside his head. He describes these encounters in his diary, which is often read by his wife, played by Ullmann. The look is typical of a Bergman film; clean, airy, gray monochrome, with a focus on the characters and the scenery, as well as an often alternatively stationary and mobile camera. It’s the feel that distinguishes this from the rest of Bergman’s oeuvre; the use of shadow and the often claustrophobic framing of the camera, coupled with Bergman’s typical stark layer of sound, minimalist in its design, that gives the film a decidedly unnerving vibe. Since all the focus is on the artist character and his wife, we are forced into an introspective mindset; we are made to feel and think about things and situations that our minds would rather not want to deal with, and it is this that gives the film such a creepy effect.
The last half hour or so of the film gets very surrealist, which wasn’t what I was expecting from either the film or from Bergman. I don’t know if Bergman decided to get very convoluted with what he was exploring, or what, but it did seem to be quite the departure from a typical Bergman film, though it still looked the part. Regardless, I found the whole experience to be quite satisfactory, even with the oddball third act, and it’s one I would recommend to any would-be Bergman fan, or even anyone looking to delve into the field of psychological horror. It’s always refreshing to see great directors dabble in fields that are often unbecoming of them, and Bergman handles himself with the air of a true artist.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10