Mon, 25 February 2019
From Michael Tapper, 1001 Movies you Must See Before You Die:
"The Phantom Carriage not only cemented the fame of director-screenwriter-actor Victor Sjostrom and Swedish silent cinema, but also had a well-documented, artistic influence on many great directors and producers. The best-known element of the film is the representation of the spiritual world as a tormented limbo between heaven and earth. The scene in which the protagonist - the hateful and self-destructive alcoholic David Holm (Sjostrom) - wakes up at the chime of midnight on New Year's Eve only to stare at his own corpse, knowing that he is condemned to hell, is one of the most quoted scenes in cinema history.
"Made in a simple but time-consuming and methodically staged series of double exposures, the filmmaker, his photographer, and a lab manager created a three-dimensional illusion of a ghostly world that went beyond anything previously seen at the cinema. More important, perhaps, was the film's complex but readily accessible narration via a series of flashbacks - and even flashbacks within flashbacks - that elevated this gritty tale of poverty and degradation to poetic excellence.
"Looking back at Sjostrom's career, The Phantom Carriage is a theological and philosophical extension of the social themes introduced in his controversial breakthrough Ingeborg Holm (1913). Both films depict the step-by-step destruction of human dignity in a cold and heartless society, driving its victims into brutality and insanity. The connection is stressed by the presence of Hilda Borgstrom, unforgettable as Ingeborg Holm and now in the role of the tortured wife - another desperate Mrs. Holm. She is yet again playing a compassionate but poor mother on her way to suicide or a life in the mental asylum.
"The religious naivete at the heart of Selma Lagerlof's faithfully adapted novel might draw occasional laughter from a secular audience some eighty years later, but the subdued, 'realist' acting and the dark fate of the main characters - which almost comes to its logical conclusion, save for a melodramatic finale - never fails to impress."
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