Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen)


Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen)

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Total Count: 20


Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,759
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Movie Info

The Hour of the Wolf (original Swedish title: Vargtimmen) is Ingmar Bergman's spin on the demons that plague his fellow creative artists. Max von Sydow plays a painter who, while spending a summer in seclusion with his pregnant wife Liv Ullmann, is visited by bizarre and disturbing visions. Before long, Ullmann is also experiencing her husband's hallucinations; one of these, an old, faceless woman, advises Ullmann to read Von Sydow's diary. Doing so, Ullmann discovers that her husband has been cheating on her with Ingrid Thulin. In the subsequent domestic squabble, Von Sydow shoots and wounds his wife. The artist's punishment for this behavior is to have his lover, now dead, spring back to life and humiliate him in full view of Ullmann. Hour of the Wolf has something to say about the dangers of artists becoming too self-centered and self-involved; one hopes that most artists are not as thoroughly punished (or punishable) as Max Von Sydow.

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Max von Sydow
as Johan Borg
Liv Ullmann
as Alma Borg
Erland Josephson
as Baron Von Merkens
Gertrud Fridh
as Corinne Von Merkens
Georg Rydeberg
as Arkivarie Lindhorst
Gudrun Brost
as Gamla Fru von Merkens
Bertil Anderberg
as Ernst Von Merkens
Ulf Johansson
as Kurator Heerbrand
Naima Wifstrand
as Old Lady with Hat
Ingrid Thulin
as Veronica Vogler
Lenn Hjortzberg
as Kapellmastare Kreisler
Agda Helin
as Maidservant
Mikael Rundquist
as Boy in dream
Mona Seilitz
as Woman in Mortuary
Folke Sundquist
as Tamino I. Trollflojten
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Critic Reviews for Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen)

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (4)

Audience Reviews for Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen)

  • Jan 16, 2018
    Dark, surreal, and not for everybody. What starts out with an artist's wife (Liv Ullman) talking to the camera about the disappearance of her husband (Max von Sydow), transitions to flashbacks about their life on an island, and his increasing angst and depression. The scenes that director Ingmar Bergman gives us from the middle of the movie on, after the intertitle 'Vargtimmen', are bizarre and nightmarish. The fact that they're subject to interpretation makes it interesting, but be forewarned, there is a brooding heaviness to the film, and in crawling through the artist's mind, the images are sometimes disturbing. Whether the scenes are nightmares, hallucinations, or insanity, it's clear that the man has many demons - beatings from childhood, forbidden desires, and constantly being misunderstood or compartmentalized as an artist. With the exception of his wife, who is a stabilizing force, the others on the island seem like demons incarnate. The scenes where he's in the mansion, at a dinner party and later trying to meet an old lover (Ingrid Thulin), feel claustrophobic and warped. We feel his social awkwardness, the outrage of critics commenting on his work, and the violation of women trying to possess a piece of him via sex or hanging a painting of his on the wall. The reduction of it all, and all while smirking or laughing at him. We feel for him as he's been silent but then exclaims "I call myself an artist for lack of a better name. In my creative work there is nothing implicit except compulsion. Through no fault of mine, I've been pointed out as something quite extraordinary, a calf with five legs, a monster. I have never fought to attain that position and I shall not fight to keep it." My interpretation, for whatever it's worth, is that husband and wife are all alone on the island, and that all of the other characters in the movie are memories or demons haunting his troubled mind. (and in the case of the woman who magically knows where his diary is kept, the intuition in his wife's mind). Both times when asked to the mansion he doesn't even reply, which could be because his perspective is to feel voiceless and powerless in society, or it could be because it's an inner dialogue. Perhaps this view is a little extreme and 'reality' is shown in the first half (before the intertitle), through the artist's perspective (especially at the party), but I have to believe the visions of the second half are all in his mind, and often symbolic. For example, we're not actually seeing the murder of a child in that oh-so-disturbing scene, we're seeing him attempt to stifle his latent homosexual desires. The wife seems to think they're close, and yet, he has a secret world revealed in his diary, and is a man ultimately tortured and alone. His insomnia has him up in the wee hours of the night, during the "hour of the wolf", which legend says is "when most people die, when most children are born. Now is when nightmares come to us. And if we are awake, we're afraid." He's slipping into insanity, thus losing himself, and his wife also is in danger of losing her mind, as she wonders whether it's true that "a woman who lives a long time with a man, eventually winds up being like that man." I suppose therein lies further horror. The film has strong performances from Max von Sydow, who really puts himself out there for the film, as well as Liv Ullman, who expresses such fear with her eyes. The legend of vargtimmen feels like an homage to the slightly different legend that director Victor Sjöström referred to in "The Phantom Carriage" (1921), which was one of Bergman's favorite films. Bergman is artistic in this film, with interesting shots, camera angles, and the use of high contrast to amplify the dreamlike feel to his scenes. It seems he's speaking some of his own truth as an artist here. The film may remind some of 1965's "Persona" in its themes of mental health and because all may not be as it seems, but weirdly enough it also reminded me of 1964's "All These Women". That film is the polar opposite in its tone (comedy/light vs horror/dark), but also expresses the difficulty of an artist amidst everything surrounding him (though that film is also external vs internal, if that makes sense). This film is far better, but also a bit of an extreme, and Bergman borders a bit on pretentiousness at times here. That may be a controversial view, but regardless, the film is just a bit too dark for me to give a higher review score, or to recommend without reservations.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 17, 2014
    This is where David Lynch takes off. It is still proper Brgman in aesthetic terms and thematically - the tortured artist and his relation to high society, juxtaposition of his simple but good-natured wife with his own complicated mind, people in isolation, childhood trauma etc. There is nowhere the sublimation of kitsch that we find in Lynch later; here everything is austere and precise and each shot is masterfully minimalistic in that it conveys the absolute essentials. Sven Nykvist's cinematography helps here alot as in most other Bergman films. The similarities with Lynch have to do mostly with the fragmented narrative and the way fantasy and reality mix together. The preformances are magnificent and the actors all manage to bring the eeriness of being manifestations of the artist's subconscious. The surreal montage sequence in the end, when the Max von Sydov character loses his mind completely and goes into his twisted world is particularly notable for its effectiveness of simple visual tricks. Wonderful!
    George M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 09, 2013
    Aside from some twisted visuals and an ending that blends surrealism and horror together quite well, "Hour of the Wolf" is an unmemorable, almost sleep-inducing effort from Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman. The pacing can get so unbearably slow at times that it'll have you checking your phone for the time every other minute, and the fact that it's so unentertaining and subtle doesn't make it any easier of a pill to swallow. Glimpses of brilliance shine through on occasion, such as the understated score and a haunting flashback sequence, but for the most part, it's pretty dull.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer
  • Nov 01, 2012
    gorgeous to look at and creepy as hell. max von sydow's dreams invade real life and not only his own
    Stella D Super Reviewer

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