Starring: Victor Sjostrom, Hilda Borgstrom, Tore Svennberg
Director: Victor Sjostrom
On New Years Eve, a drunk is faced with his mortality and his selfishness when the driver of a phantom carriage takes him on the ride of his life.
This film is startlingly dark and beautiful, with imagery which is quite creepy. The use of double exposures and other techniques create a ghostly world that seems to exist alongside our own. If you think films in the 20’s were in their infancy and were clunky or comical, think again.
Adapted from a novel, this film is like the dark parent of It’s A Wonderful Life. However, instead of a man who is basically very good, who helps people and who is saved by an angel, we have a violent drunk who is headed for the grave, and who is dragged through his memory of his wasted life by being thrust into the spirit world of ghostly creatures. Where George Bailey is joyfully reunited with his family in the end, our drunk grabs an ax with a murderous gleam in his eye in a scene that Kubrik almost lifted wholesale for The Shining.
This film was a huge success in it’s day, and with good reason. It’s a powerful film with strong imagery and a moral lesson. It’s actually a bit moralistic for our modern times, but that probably won’t bother you. It’s fascinating visuals and dark plotting are really something.
Usually I can find silent films, but this one I did have a little trouble getting a hold of, which surprised me considering how influential it is. Also, it’s 1 hour 40 mins long, which might put some of you off. If either of those things are the case, there are some amazing videos about this film on YouTube, which talk about the film or show how it’s techniques and images are used and referenced in other films, like The Shining for example. It’s a great piece of cinematic history and one that film students might like to see.
See It If: perfect for a cold December night, it’s a ghost story with a moral, and quite spooky, though the fact that it’s a long film, and a silent one at that, might put you off.