Lester’s review published on Letterboxd:
Last minute addition. Not sure how it's possible but only one movie in my Hooptober list came from the 1960's and I feel like my list needed one more flick with art-house sensibilities so I decided to watch Ingmar Bergman's lone Horror film. He should have made more because this was sick as hell!!!
I've seen maybe 7 or 8 Bergmans so far but I see a movie once every few years from completely different time periods so I'm not sure if I can honestly say that I have a good grasp on his style beyond some surface level observations. But this one reminds me a lot of Persona especially in how it explores the unconscious and the shifting personalities of the main characters in such an intense way. I'm gonna need to watch Persona again but I came out of this thinking this is Sven Nykvist's best work; I definitely found this to be Bergman's most aggressively stylish film. Long static takes with surprising instances of dynamic cinematography that will catch you off guard, absolutely gorgeous use of light and shadows, jarring fast cuts, overexposed sequences with intense contrasts of light and dark--this movie uses all of these tricks creating a nightmarish, hallucinatory effect, where you're never quite sure if what you're seeing is real or a figment of a character's imagination until these bluntly surreal moments come and it becomes surprisingly objective. In terms of pure scare factor, I started questioning my decision to watch this for the challenge but it goes so hard in the final half hour that it turned out to be one of the most chilling movies I've seen this month.
This is also the most personal of Bergman's work that I've seen. You can easily find parallels between the struggling painter's (played by Max von Sydow) descent into madness and Bergman himself, and the creatures von Sydow's character envisions are based on Bergman's own recurring nightmares. Witnessing the character's downfall wouldn't be half as compelling if it weren't for the sheer visceral ferocity of the visions come to life, and Bergman is able to render his haunting visions onto film as an elaborate form of deeply personal self-confession, finding more difficult questions to agonize over instead of catharsis. Essential Horror.