The Phantom Carriage

1921

The Phantom Carriage

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

100%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 12

90%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,466
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The Phantom Carriage Photos

Movie Info

David Holm (Victor Sjostrom) is the abusive husband who finds his wife (Hilda Borgstrom) has left him after he is released from prison. He vows vengeance for her abandonment in his hour of need. The couple is reunited in a Salvation Army mission where David convinces his estranged wife to reconcile their differences. Edith Larssen (Astrid Holm) aids in bringing the troubled couple together. A year later, David has regressed to his alcoholic ways and sees the messenger of death in a harrowing dream. He rushes to save his wife from suicide as she contemplate the murder of the couple's children in this implausible melodrama.

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Cast

Concordia Selander
as Edith's Mother
Olof Ås
as Driver
Olof Aas
as Driver
Nils Ahrén
as Prison Chaplain
Einar Axelsson
as David's Brother
John Ekman
as Police constable
Anna-Lisa Baude
as Salvation Army Soldier
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Critic Reviews for The Phantom Carriage

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (1)

Audience Reviews for The Phantom Carriage

  • Dec 10, 2017
    The premise of this movie is intriguing, and based on an old Swedish legend which said that the last sinner to die on New Year's Eve would have to spend the next year driving Death's carriage picking up the souls of people who die. From the beginning we're pulled in to this story by both its special effects and its storytelling. The scenes with the phantom carriage wheeling around, including one over the water to retrieve a drowned soldier, as well as those with a transparent Tore Svennberg and his ominous cloak and scythe, are fantastic. Director Victor Sjöström's use of flashbacks was ahead of its time, and he gradually reveals everything behind a young Salvation Army worker's request to see a man before she dies. Sjöström also plays that main character, and gives us a great performance in depravity. Among other things, he scorns help from charitable women in the Salvation Army by ripping up repairs to his jacket one spent all night mending, openly tries to pass along his disease (consumption) to others, and after tracking down his wife and small children, hacks down a door with an axe to get at them. It's pretty dark stuff. As he faces an avalanche of guilt over the consequences of his actions and his own impending fate, can he be redeemed? It's a weighty question that would later absorb Ingmar Bergman, who idolized Sjöström, and the link between the two provides additional interest. Aside from the influence the film had on Bergman, 36 years later Sjöström would play the main character in 'Wild Strawberries'. It's also notable that 'The Phantom Carriage' was one of Stanley Kubrick's favorites from the silent era, and that he, too, was influenced when he put together Jack Nicholson's axe scene from 'The Shining'. As with many of the films from this time period, it drags in places to modern eyes, as interchanges between characters via intertitles and elongated facial expressions sometimes get a little tedious. It's also ultimately a morality tale, which may put some viewers off - and yet, I found the devotion and faith of the Salvation Army sister, as well as the prayer to 'mature one's soul' before dying to be uplifting. We see the dual nature of man in the film, good and evil, and it's put into the larger context of our mortality. It's fantastical, and yet we realize that someday death will come for us all, and whether we believe in an afterlife or not, we hope that we've done good things for others in the world. Well worth watching.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Feb 09, 2017
    One of the most influential Swedish films, the Phantom Carriage was known for it's inventive use of overlaying films and using an unconventional narrative. It was a great watch for any cinema buffs.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Sep 03, 2014
    For starters, Sjöström disguised himself as a poor man and spent time in the slums of Stockholm in order to prepare for this movie. As questionable as that may seem from a health point of view, that strongly talks about the dedication of an artist. Secondly, the overwhelming and abundant supernatural content of <i>The Phantom Carriage</i> was enough to be immediately banned by the censors in the 1920s; however, the board censors decided to leave the film intact, opting to avoid a dispute with the Swedish romantic nationalist writer Selma Lagerlöf. Thirdly, Ingmar Bergman refers to <i>The Phantom Carriage</i> as "the film of all films" and as one of the main influences on his work. He watched it at least once every summer. He was a close follower of Sjöström's work. It is no coincidence that Bergman would hire Sjöström in 1957 as an isolated man who would not only have to face his fears, but also his current existential state and his broken family bonds. Sjöström often incarnated protagonists whose motives where changed in course because of the outcomes of his family, be it because of personal responsibility, or because of external factors. As a silent film, it stands above the majority of its kind. Silent cinema always had to emphasize the theatricality of the performances and the cinematography, with a proper orchestral soundtrack faithfully reacting to the events on screen with a strong correlation. Early cinema is also "credited" with having "exaggerated performances", which constitutes a biased statement through the eyes of modernity, and an unfair one. So wouldn't critics 100 years ago label our acting as too realistic to be entertaining? There is no right or wrong as absolute terms; there is just perception. Bringing up the acting is important because, here, nothing is overdone. Although certain sequences may border on the theatrical, they feel authentic. It acts as a supernatural play but flowing smoothly without the need to cause an impression through forced stunts. And still, this is not the most magnificent feat of this ride. No, the feat is the visuals. This is the very first film I have seen in the history of cinema to pay a high respect to the themes of the supernatural without implying for a second that Sjöström condones the ideals behind the occult. He is a poet of his own attrezzo. Watching the 107-minute version with KTL's soundtrack, which is probably the best I have heard for ANY silent film, simply becomes a spiritual experience. The color tints work perfectly for separating the realms of the living and the dead. Yellow is for the living, red is for memories, and the blue... Jesus, the blue. Blue engulfs everything and indicates we have crossed the supernatural border. With the haunting instrumentation of the soundtrack, stares are made stronger, domestic violence is more disturbing and the phantom carriage with its surroundings and its now iconic horse becomes terror. All scenery is absolutely haunting, from the clock indicating a few minutes before 12:00, to the graveyard where the three drunkards are, to all of the landscapes that the phantom carriage visits during the story that Georges tells. Shots linger for us to admire; they move as smoothly as a phantom, gliding on solid surface or the sea during nighttime, collecting souls. It is easy to give jump scares. It is difficult to reach the soul. And yet, Sjöström is a cinematic moralist with a humanist tone. That's how he reaches the soul, because if there is some emotional context behind that allows the viewer to empathize with it, then horror is much easier to create because it relates to the characters and affects them. He is a director of dramas, nothing more. This supernatural argument was just a facade to hide a deeper story about the importance of family, hospitality and reciprocity, including unrequited love. The character of David Holm acts as a version of Scrooge while he reflects on the damage he has inflicted on others during key events of his life, and he is now demanded to endure the sights of his emotional slaughters. This idea, with KTL giving me goosebumps and the blue tints assaulting my senses and the yellow ones giving me dramatic nostalghia resulted in one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in this decade. 99/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Jul 01, 2014
    A journey to redemption that is poetic and eerie in equal measures. A silent masterpiece.
    Pierluigi P Super Reviewer

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