‘Hour of the Wolf’ 1966
Yesterday’s Bergman film was Hour of the Wolf (1968), a disturbing tale of a missing man, and a pregnant couple’s encounters with the bizarre people who live on the island where they are staying. Today, I decided to watch one of the first films that brought Ingmar Bergman to world attention, The Virgin Spring. One of the things which has been a distraction so far in watching these films, has been the subtitles. It’s not that I’m unused to them; it’s more about the fact that Bergman’s images – along with his cinematographer, Sven Nykvist’s beautiful framing – are so extraordinarily beautiful, frame after frame, that I don’t want to take my eyes away from them to read the English words at the bottom of the screen. The faces of his actors become beautiful portraits, featuring the blackest of blacks and the richest of contrasts. Hundreds of camera setups in The Seventh Seal and Persona provide frames that are photographs as beautiful as one could ever hope to see in a gallery. It’s also the creative juxtaposition of two actors in the frame that creates images that are so compelling.
I began The Virgin Spring without activating the subtitles and suddenly noticed their absence in the opening scene with the maid. It suddenly struck me that I should try and watch the film without the distraction of a language barrier and see to what degree the images paint the picture of the story. In a second viewing I can have the benefit of subtitles to give added nuances to the narrative.