Bad Boys for Life
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Great special effects and haunting visuals.
The release date of January 1 had special significance to the plot, and with the film shot from May to July in 1920, there was plenty of time for preparation. Double exposures were made in the camera, using multiple passes of film, allowing for what appears to be 3-D spectral images – a difficult feat since the hand-cranked cameras had to be manipulated with exact precision. Stanley Kubrick was aware of this film and incorporated several themes and sequences into The Shining. This is an absolutely amazing film with a central plea: Lord, please let my soul come to maturity before it is reaped." Whether you are religious or not, this idea of wanting to overcome all of life's mistakes and rise to the ultimate noble self-actualization, is beautiful. The amount of work it took to create what appears on screen is awe-inspiring, especially since everything had to be done in camera. This film is based on the novel Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness!" by Selma Lagerlöf. While watching the film, it is hard not to notice physical similarities between Sjöström and the modern-day actor John Cleese, and also between Hilda Borgström as his wife and the classic actress Lillian Gish. It is sincere all the way through, with excellent performances all around, and its overwhelming melancholia is oppressive, though its ending ends on an upbeat note. It's hard not to think of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens as the plot unfolds. Actress Astrid Holm, who played Edit, also appeared in Häxan (Witchcraft Through the Ages). Victor Sjöström (pronounced SEE-strom), also created He Who Gets Slapped featuring Lon Chaney – not a horror film, but an excellent and moving drama. He later anglicized his last name as "Seastrom". Though stopping his directing career in 1937, he continued on as an actor, most well-known for his lead role in Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries from 1957.
A perfect fit within the sub-genre of "Holiday Films Where the Lead Character Must Examine His Life in Some Unique Way in Order to Right Some Wrongs" (Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life). This is a delicious and retributively satisfying portrayal of pure human wickedness. Told non-sequentially, we see a recently deceased, despicable man learn why he's been cursed to drive a death-cart for a year. An experimental and ahead-of-it's-time tale that uses brilliant early effects to great storytelling purpose.
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.
Seeing that Phantom Carriage glide right over the ocean was a really awesome thing to watch. It's kind of happy but really sad the life he could have led if it wasn't for his friend who led him astray. It makes you wonder whether the people your surrounding yourself with are of benefit to your future and wellbeing.
This is a very well written story. The way that it goes back forth from past to present is really captivating. It definitely got my attention. The whole concept of the movie is brilliant and when you start to think when the movie was made, you start to really appreciate it more. The way they were able to create some of the special effects in this movie is amazing especially being 1921.
The atmospheric ambiance makes for a pretty creepy setting. To see how dastardly the guy acted was while he was alive, kind of makes it hard to feel sympathy for his demise. It's a real treat to see where Kubrick might have gotten inspiration for his famous door and axe scene in The Shining and maybe even some of the soundtrack music as well.
The ending was pretty tear jerky especially with the music.
Overall, a wonderful tale!
An absolute masterpiece. This silent movie classic is utterly compelling from start to finish. It's themes are dark and the performances and visuals are breathtaking.
It's like Scrooge story but I liked it
This film works both as a haunting ghost tale and as a compelling character study. In some ways, it bears some similarities to A Christmas Carol. Instead of coming off as a lesser version of it though, it's able to not only hold its own, but it also remains a couple tiers above that level due to the beautiful and occasionally dreamlike camerawork that gives it a unique feel which is hard to come by in ghost films or horror films otherwise.
A film that has images that will firmly imprint in your mind & considering it was made in 1921 is truly unbelievable. A powerful portrait of life & death.
The story centers around the fable of the person who dies on the stroke of midnight becomes a Grim Reaper & harvests souls for a year. The story focuses on David Holm a man of low character & clearly wasted his gift of life.
The plot of the film is so rich & complex & emotionally captivating an incredible masterpiece directed & staring Victor Seastrom. This film was the main inspiration to Ingmar Bergman one of Sweden's Finest Filmmaker.
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.