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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Korkarlen (aka The Phantom Carriage) (1921)

According to a Swedish legend, the last person to die before the New Year must drive the phantom carriage that retrieves the souls of the dead for the next year. A despicable reprobate (Victor Sjostrom, who also directed) is the last one to die in the year and relives his miserable life and the circumstances that brought him to death's door. A huge influence on Ingmar Bergman (especially THE SEVENTH SEAL) and reputedly one of his favorite films, the film features ground breaking special effects for its day. The film itself is an often uneasy but superb blend of horror, poignancy and a morality tale. The main protagonist, the spiteful David Holm (Sjostrom), is impossible to like and seemingly irredeemable yet by the film's end, director Sjostrom succeeds in, however grudgingly to the audience, making his redemption believable. Dark, moody and evocative, I suspect it will soon find its place as one of the great pieces of silent cinema as more discover it. The version I saw had a beautifully effective score by the Swedish composer Matti Bye. With Hilda Borgstrom,Tore Svennberg, Astrid Holm (who bears a slight resemblance to Lillian Gish) and Concordia Selander.

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