One of the cinema’s great Gothic fantasy films, Hour of the Wolf was made in the same amazing year as Persona, one of the cinema’s greatest works. The celebrated artist Johan Borg (Max von Sydow), who lives in frugal solitude with his wife Alma (Liv Ullmann) on a remote island, is terrorised by nightmares and hallucinations. Like many other Bergman figures of the period, Johan is a fugitive from his recent past, which now invades his psyche and sends him into the nether regions of insanity. Hour of the Wolf is an obvious tribute to the work of E.T.A. Hoffman, and to The Magic Flute in particular. Masonic references abound, but dominant above all is the theme of the vampire, a predator in human form who feeds on the blood of his victim by night, just as an audience feeds on the artist in the spotlight. Hour of the Wolf contrives to be another step forward on the path that could honourably have reached its destination with Persona, and it does so by approaching the Persona argument from a fresh and splendidly sardonic tangent.
1967.English subtitles.Black and white89 mins.