The Magician (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Special Edition, Criterion Collection
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THE MAGICIAN (Ansiktet), directed by Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal, Fanny and Alexander), is an engaging, brilliantly conceived tale of deceit from one of cinema’s premier illusionists. Max von Sydow (The Virgin Spring, The Exorcist) stars as Dr. Vogler, a mid-nineteenth-century traveling mesmerist and peddler of potions whose magic is put to the test by a small town’s cruel, eminently rational minister of health, Dr. Vergerus (Wild Strawberries’ Gunnar Bjornstrand). The result is a diabolically clever battle of wits that’s both frightening and funny, shot in rich, gorgeously gothic black and white.
Top customer reviews
The movie is set in what feels like nineteenth century Eastern Europe. The film opens with the band of entertainers taking a break on a hill beside their horse drawn carriage. They still wear makeup and period clothing as if not having time to remove them since their last performance or are they on the run? Is the make up so bad in this movie? This type of question runs to deeper and deeper levels but all at a digestible pace. Truth seems to be in question much of the time but doesn't seem to suffer never surfacing especially at the end. Some parts remain unresolved but this also seems of little consequence as in real life. Who can answer such questions - what is 'truth'?
There's more integrity in not attempting it and a reality is restored. What does seem of consequence is the survival of integrity which has, as a finale, been evenly given to all the characters - or there would have been trouble. (Happy ending).
film, and (of course) Bergman's metaphysical musings.
A band of traveling magicians, wanted by the law as charlatans, are
pulled in for questioning and forced to perform for some upper class
non-believers. The 'nothing-in-life is-what-it- seems' theme is strong,
but does get repetitive, and at times you can see it coming.
Also, on first viewing the elements didn't really feel like they fit
together, and I found it a bit of a bumpy ride. The comedy made the
dark side hard to take seriously, and the serious, creepy elements made
the comedy feel all the more wedged in.
That said they are a some amazing sequences that I know will stick with
me, and I do feel haunted by the film. Many call it a masterpiece or
close, and I'll certainly see it again.
and I might talk about, were we to have dinner together.
It wouldn't be about film theory, or the silence of God;
it might, perhaps, be about our waiter being slow on the uptake
regarding our need for black, black coffee, or about those northern
icebound forests haunted by...what?
I know I would be tongue-tied; for, of all the films Mr. Bergman
has directed, only four come to mind which made a definite impact
on me: WILD STRAWBERRIES (about age and memory); THE VIRGIN SPRING
(about the persistence of faith); THE SEVENTH SEAL (about life and
death); and THE MAGICIAN.
I've never forgotten THE MAGICIAN. In its own way, it is an
exploration of mysticism battling crushing cynicism. Max Von
Sydow plays voiceless down-at-the-heels hypnotist-charlatan who
brings his starving troupe to a nobleman's mansion. There he is forced
to put on a show which discomfits some and angers many. Bergman
patiently explores illusion, and whether this defeated
charlatan may indeed have a "power."
At the climax, Bergman sets up a genuinely spooky attic
sequence in which von Sydow's main tormentor comes face to face
with his own fears, and the horror of the prisoning darkness around him.
It is disturbing, unsettling.
So how does THE MAGICIAN end? Obliquely, in typical Bergman fashion,
providing no answers.
Like Bergman, it is a gothic entity each one of us - seduced by a master -
must approach with trepidation.
Criterion's print is gorgeous, a mosaic of lush darkness and light.
That attic brims with silence and unseen movement; one is so absorbed with
what is going to happen, life beyond the screen almost ceases.
Watch it alone - but don't turn the light off!
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