The Magician (1958)

THE MAGICIAN (1958)
aka Ansiktet
Article 2867 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-14-2009
Posting Date: 6-29-2009
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Featuring Max von Sydow, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Bjornstrand
Country: Sweden

A magician and his troupe arrive at a town where they are forced to stay under the eye of the leading townspeople who want to witness their performance with the aim of debunking the supernatural elements. However, the magician has a few more tricks up his sleeve than expected…

This is the weakest of the four Ingmar Bergman movies I’ve seen for this series, but that’s no putdown; after all, the other three (THE SEVENTH SEAL, THE VIRGIN SPRING and WILD STRAWEBERRIES) are considered some of his finest works. It is, however, the movie I’ve seen that may be the closest to a horror movie he’s made, and at least one scene (in which a coroner finds himself terrorized by the man on whom he’s just performed an autopsy) wouldn’t be out of place in a horror film. It’s basically a struggle between reason and the supernatural, with the magician and his troupe against a collection of skeptical townspeople. Max von Sydow is fascinating as the magician; he pretends to be a mute, but that’s only a front. Gunnar Bjornstrand is also fine as the doctor who performs the autopsy, as is Naima Wifstrand as a grandmother who may or may not be a witch. Bergman’s usual themes crop up here again, but that adds to the appeal. The movie also opens with a fun scene in which the troupe passes through a forest believed to be haunted.

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