Hour of the Wolf – Sweden, 1968 – reviews

Hour of the Wolf – original title: Vargtimmen – is a 1968 Swedish film directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann. It combines elements of drama, surrealism and horror.

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The plot is framed through the account of Alma (Liv Ullman), who addresses the audience directly while sitting at a picnic table. She tells of her husband’s disappearance, which is explored in a flashback constructed of his diaries and her words.


Johan Borg (von Sydow) is a painter who is regularly approached by odd and suspicious people. He confides to his young, pregnant wife Alma (Ullman) that he believes them to be demons, and that his insomnia is growing worse. On the nights when Johan can’t sleep, Alma stays awake by his side through the nights, especially during the “vargtimmen” (“Hour of the Wolf”), during which, Johan says, most births and deaths occur. Johan begins to give names to the figures who approach him, including the Bird-Man, the Insects, the Meat-Eaters, the Schoolmaster (with pointers in his trousers), and The Lady With a Hat.

Reviews:

‘It takes great power for an artist to win through to the edge of madness, suicide, memory and guilt so continuously as Bergman does and come back with so much that seems familiar, out of an old dream or an old nightmare. Bergman works where people’s nightmares converge’. New York Times

‘There’s enough striking imagery to keep the eyes entertained and enough thought provoking ideas to engage the mind.  But it’s just not enough to consider it one of Bergman’s greats.  It’s a solid film, no doubt about it, but he’d already hammered down smarter points about identity in the past so it’s hard not to be a bit disappointed by Hour of the Wolf.’ Can’t Stop the Movie

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