A Time for Demonic Visitations

“According to the ancient Romans, the Hour of the Wolf means the time between night and dawn, just before the light comes, and people believed it to be the time when demons had a heightened power and vitality, the hour when most people died and most children were born, and when nightmares came to one.”

Setting the stage for what will follow with this ominous introduction, Ingmar Bergman’s 1968 feature Hour of the Wolf (Swedish title: Vargtimmen) is probably the closest the director has ever come to making a horror film, one that crosses over into the realm of the supernatural. Continue reading

My Swedish Education

For years I held the opinion that Swedish director Jan Troell and his films were generally overrated by movie critics and scholars until the 2008 Telluride Film Festival where a retrospective of his work proved to me that I had been sadly mistaken. The two films that changed my perspective were the American premiere of Everlasting Moments (original title: Maria Larssons eviga ogonblick, 2008), a turn-of-the-century drama about a working class mother who becomes a professional photographer, and Here’s Your Life (original title: Har har du ditt liv, 1966), which marked his feature film debut. The latter film, in particular, was a revelation and remains one of my all-time favorite movies.  Continue reading

Faded Delusions of Grandeur: The Desert of the Tartars

The Desert of the Tartars (1976)Each year hundreds of international films never get picked up for distribution in the U.S. and the select few that do are either high profile film festival prize winners like Michael Haneke’s Amour (2012) or popular commercial hits like March of the Penguins (2005) from France and Life is Beautiful (1997) from Italy. So when you come across an austere and haunting cinematic work like Valerio Zurlini’s The Desert of the Tartars (Il Deserto Dei Tartari), you have to wonder how many great films from other lands are out there that you are not going to see…and probably never will.       Continue reading