Watched Jul 29, 2011
Doug Tilley’s review:
Despite some shaky melodrama and some last-minute moralizing that can't help but come off as trite, Victor Sjöström's The Phantom Carriage is a beautiful and haunting film featuring a collection of unforgettable images. Utilizing a narrative that travels seamlessly into a series of flashbacks (and even flashbacks within flashbacks), the film theorizes that when a person dies at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve they are conscripted to spend the year picking up the souls of the dead and placing them in a phantom carriage. David Holm, a real drunken bastard, is killed in a fight immediately after telling this story, and is visited by his friend who died the previous year at the same moment - and has spent the year wielding the scythe. We're then treated to flashbacks of Holm's awful behavior, the dissolution of his marriage, and the Salvation Army nurse who was committed to saving him. Based on the novel Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness! by Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf, The Phantom Carriage is best known for its groundbreaking special effects, which are eerily effective despite their simplistic nature. An obvious influence on the films of Ingmar Bergman, The Phantom Carriage is not only an essential piece of Swedish cinema history, with its impressive cross-cutting, flashback structure and effects, but equally important to the development of film as a whole.