Hour of the Wolf


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Hour of the Wolf

(pop culture)

Although few critics actually associate Swedish writer and director Ingmar Bergman with vampires, Hour of the Wolf (1968) recalls images of Universal Pictures’s Dracula (1931). The Swedish movie is in black and white with English subtitles and a running time of approximately 90 minutes. Visual references in Hour of the Wolf from Frankenstein, Dracula, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Birds, and Psycho abound along with eerie castle interiors resembling Hollywood’s gothic era. The Hour of the Wolf is one of Bergman’s “darker” films, a nightmarish descent into death, vampires, and sexuality; its extreme contrast of intense light and dark shadows is a reminder of the German Expressionist style of earlier Hollywood horror movies. As a few Bergman biographers have pointed out, one of the movie’s characters, the archivist Lindhorst (Georg Rydeberg), bears a striking resemblance to Bela Lugosi‘s Dracula.

Hour of the Wolf is an allegory about a personality disintegration of a creative artist. The story revolves around Johan (Max von Sydow), a painter who lives on a remote island with his wife Alma (Liv Ullmann). Johan struggles with nightmares and personal demons and even attempts to kill Alma (the story is told from her point of view). The couple is invited to wine and dinner by the island’s owner, Baron von Merkens (Erland Josephson), who lives in a neighboring castle. But the guests appear to be references to monsters from classic horror movies: the Baron’s face recalls contours in Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein monster, an old woman peels off her face to reveal a decomposing skull and gaping eye sockets resembling Mrs. Bates’s corpse in Psycho, and Lindhorst’s dark widow’s peak, sinister gleaming eyes, and malevolent grin are a match for Lugosi’s Count Dracula. There’s a reference to fangs during the dinner-table conversation, and a quick shot of Lindhorst flapping his “wings” among a flock of birds.

As one of the most influential and acclaimed artists of modern cinema, Bergman (1918–2007) directed and/or wrote close to 67 films during his lifetime. Some of his memorable pictures include Wild Strawberries (1957), Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Persona (1966), and Cries and Whispers (1972). Hour of the Wolf, or Vargtimmen in Swedish, was originally titled The Cannibals, perhaps referring to the castle’s residents feasting on Johan’s blood. The movie was later referenced in another vampire film, The Hunger (1983).

Sources:

Gervais, Marc. Ingmar Bergman: Magician and Prophet. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999. 257 pp.
Milne, Tom. “Review of Hour of the Wolf from Time Out.” 1968. Bergmanorma: The Magic Works of Ingmar Bergman. Posted at www.Bergmanorama.webs.com. Accessed on April 8, 2010.
Scheider, Dan. “Hour Of The Wolf by Ingmar Bergman.” Alternative Film Guide. Posted at http://www.altfg.com/blog/film-reviews/hour-of-the-wolf-ingmar-bergman/. Accessed on April 8, 2010.
Wood, Robin. Ingmar Bergman. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., 1969. 191 pp. Houston Dark Shadows Society see: Dark Shadows Fandom