The Devil’s Eye (1960)

aka Djavulens oga
Article 2896 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-12-2009
Posting Date: 7-18-2009
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Featuring Jarl Kulle, Bibi Andersson, Stig Jarrel
Country: Sweden

The devil is plagued by a sty in his eye, the result of a woman who has so far remained a virgin before marriage. To fix the situation, he sends up Don Juan to seduce her. Will evil triumph, or will good save the day?

Comedies are not Ingmar Bergman’s specialty, and he knows it, so, through the use of some distancing techniques (the movie is narrated by Gunnar Bjornstrand, who makes sure we understand what Bergman’s intentions are), he makes sure we get the point. It is a comedy, and an amusing one, but Bergman being Bergman, it’s certainly not an empty-headed one; he uses it as a springboard to explore good and evil and the subtleties with which these two forces play off of each other. We have three different temptations here; Don Juan tempts the virtuous young woman, Don Juan’s servant tempts the wife of the vicar (against Satan’s wishes), and a troublemaking demon (sent along to keep Don Juan on his task and to make sure Don Juan’s servant doesn’t get what he wants) tempts a naive vicar. The third of these conflicts is perhaps the most amusing, and its resolution ends up impacting the success of the other temptations. In the battle there does emerge a clear winner, but things are never that simple in Bergman’s universe, and the other side does have some success. The performances are all wonderful, though Bibi Andersson, Nils Poppe and Sture Lagerwall stand out the best.

I hope I get to see some more of Bergman’s work as part of this series; he is rapidly becoming one of my favorite directors.

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