Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Sweden, 1968. Svensk Filmindustri. Screenplay by Ingmar Bergman. Cinematography by Sven Nykvist. Produced by Lars-Owe Carlberg. Music by Lars Johan Werle. Production Design by Marik Vos-Lundh. Costume Design by Mago. Film Editing by Ulla Ryghe.
Ask Ingmar Bergman to interpret La Dolce Vita through his own imagination and it comes out Carnival Of Souls, a dark and twisted nightmare that is as close as the great master ever came to making a horror film. Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann play a celebrated artist and his wife who live in a secluded seaside cottage, happily supported by her domestic labour and his creations. Invited by nearby aristocrats to spend time at their posh villa, Ullmann finds herself indifferent to the luxury that they offer, while von Sydow is exposed to lusts and greedy passions that undo his mind. Earlier erotic obsessions are being revisited, the confession of a crime soon follows and, eventually, complete madness as he loses the ability to discern what is real and what is not. The dots do not all connect comfortably here, there’s a rocky incongruity to all of the shades that Bergman paints with, but the excellent performances and fascinating imagery make that as much a part of the experience as anything else. The inky monochrome photography is gorgeous to look at, and the film is at its best when it is indulging itself most in its own eccentric improvisations; it’s nice to know Bergman wasn’t always about austere control, or that his characters’ madness was not always expressed through guilt-ridden speeches about God and death.