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The Magician (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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symbolic...it is a movie that should generate a lot of thinking when it is over.
Ostensibly it is a movie about the continuing conflict between faith and science...or reason and art but there are no quick answers. The character of Dr. Vogler may have been influenced by the myth and fact of Rasputin. Even the look is similar; Max Von Sydow is the "perfect choice of actor" in portraying this hypnotist, con-artist, or real magician.
I never had the sense that the "magic" was real, but persons behave as if the illusions were true. After a cynical medical officer humiliates Dr. Vogler, attempts to prove Vogler is nothing but a charlatan, the magician challenges him for a private performance. And in that performance Dr. Vogler dies and comes back to life again...the metaphor of Christ.
The nature of God requires us to keep on questioning. This was a theme in "The Seventh Seal' and it reappears in this film. Recommended...not as a masterpiece but as an important work of the director.
Of course, this requires a kind of faith, and is open to charges of manipulation, precisely the theme of 'The Magician', a splendid slice of unnerving Grand Guignol horror, where a rather academic argument between the Enlightenment values of sceince, reason and empiricism confront those of superstition, magic and the inexplicable. These latter values might be called medieval, pre-Renaissance, and we are reminded that the modern theatre developed in this period from the Church, from rites and passion plays. this is the kind of effect 'The Magician' has, visually and tonally.
The argument is not between the doctor and the mesmerist, but between the film's surface narrative (which, as an argument, promotes the predominance of reason) and the film's form (which destroys every attempt at argument). Everything within the film that seems to derive from supernatural forces can all be ascribed, more or less, to rational causes, for example psychological weakness; even if it is this very weakness, that border between what we know and what we can't know, in which the mesmerist exists. Although we might say 'Ah, it's only a delusion', the very fact that these self-generated delusions can convincingly take the place of safe, everyday reality, can become that reality, suggests the limits of rationality, without any recourse to the supernatural.Read more ›
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!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
For fans of such movies as The Seventh Seal, this movie may be somewhat different. Bergman, always involved in the confrontation between the logical and the metaphysical, the ego... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Senhor Sao Tome
The rousing ending nearly exonerates some of the inexplicable senselessness of some of the arcane divagating of the plot.Published 2 months ago by Larry Woiwode
Incredible cinema by Bergman. Much cleaner presentation than old VHS tape version. Plastic case was damaged however.Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is a comedy, but it isn't difficult to see that it could have been a much more light-hearted movie than it turns out to be. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Stanley Crowe
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