The Phantom Carriage (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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The Phantom Carriage is a silent Swedish film made by legendary actor/director Victor Sjöström. While Sjöström is known more for his acting performances later in life, namely as the protagonist in Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries, he originally made his mark as a prolific and very innovative director, beginning in the silent era and spanning into early talkies. This film is considered by many to be one of his very best and is a perfect example of how Sjöström both pioneered and refined techniques that were used for decades to come.
The film uses double exposures quite extensively. While this technique was not new, for this film it was far more advanced, consisting of multiple layers and dimensions. While the techniques may seem obvious and even primitive by today's standards, they left audiences awed and mesmerized 90 years ago. Another innovation of this film is the unique structure in which it's told. This is one of the first movies to make extensive use of flashbacks, going as far as having flashbacks within flashbacks.
I will briefly cover the plot, as to not ruin the film for someone who has never seen it before.Read more ›
THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE is one of those silent movies to show people who think they don't like silent movies. I have yet to meet someone that I have shown it to who was not captivated by it. Part of that is due to the similarity of the plot to a well known English property which I won't name here but a lot of it is due to the simple but creative special effects that seem perfectly natural in keeping with the story being told. Credit should also be given to the lead performances of Victor Sjostrom and Hilda Borgstrom which seem as contemporary as anything seen today. It's easy to see why Ingmar Bergman would have been attracted to and inspired by this story of a vicious alcoholic who receives his comeuppance and an unexpected shot at redemption. The dysfunctional family theme, long a staple of Scandinavian drama, also plays well today. A surprising movie that still has the power to engage and enthrall audiences 90 years later.
The last person to die on New Year's Eve before the stroke of midnight must drive Death's chariot, collecting the souls of those who die throughout the next year. Sjostrom himself plays David, an abusive alcoholic who becomes the chariot rider's successor and is shown the harm and misery he brought to others.
THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE is an atmospheric masterpiece. Told in what was then an innovative flashback format, the film utilizes double and even multiple exposures in ways previously unseen to simulate the spectral, horse driven carriage and its doomed rider. The film is also noteworthy for some of the earliest night for night photography ever attempted in a motion picture. This remarkably moving parable of a film was a huge influence on the work of Ingmar Bergman, especially THE SEVENTH SEAL and WILD STRAWBERRIES, both from 1957.
Criterion's exceptional Blu-ray was transferred from a restored duplicate negative derived from two prints; a black and white nitrate and a color tinted nitrate. Two optional scores are included; a chamber orchestral work and an experimental, computer composition. The special features give us an absorbing commentary by historian Casper Tybjerg, a 1981 interview with Ingmar Bergman, an essay by Peter Cowie on the film's influence on Bergman, some footage of the construction of Rasunda studio where THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE was shot, and a booklet by Paul Mayersberg discussing the film's importance.
As usual, Criterion has done a beautiful job in putting this edition together, and it does ample justice to an extraordinary film that deserves wider recognition. Its haunting quality is unforgettable.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have had this film on my wish list for a couple of years. I finally purchased it, watched it, and then asked myself why I waited so long to get this. Read morePublished 19 days ago by Melanie B.
This was the first silent movie I've seen... You get all kinds of emotions without a drop of sound!! The special effects are eerie and the story is heart-wrenching at times. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Luke Ulbrich
It was just as good as i heard it was if not more!!Published 5 months ago by RealEyesRealizeRealLies
This double bill gives you both a true classic of silent cinema, and a little known, but very interesting tele-film by Ingmar Bergman dramatising the story of the creator of... Read morePublished 5 months ago by K. Gordon
The last person to die on New Years Day, becomes the next rider for a year of The Phantom Carriage. Read more
Great film, hard to watch. Deeply alcoholic, abusive husband, mean and cruel to his children! Great story line, classic old film and storyline. Dreadful, leading man story line. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Lambie's MOM
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