The last person to die on New Year’s Eve before the clock strikes twelve is doomed to take the reins of Death’s chariot and work tirelessly collecting fresh souls for the next year. So says the legend that drives The Phantom Carriage (Körkarlen), directed by the father of Swedish cinema, Victor Sjöström, about an alcoholic, abusive ne’er-do-well (Sjöström himself) who is shown the error of his ways and the pure-of-heart Salvation Army sister who believes in his redemption. Based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf, this extraordinarily rich and innovative silent classic (which inspired Ingmar Bergman to make movies) is a Dickensian ghost story and a deeply moving morality tale, as well as a showcase for groundbreaking special effects. –The Criterion Collection
Born in Silbodal, Sweden, in 1879. The son of a lumberjack, he emigrated with his parents to the U.S. when he was only one year old. The Sjöström family prospered in the district of Brooklyn where Victor lived until the age of seven. In his teens, he was beset with problems related to his father who had become a religious fanatic. With the death of his mother, in 1887, the boy decided to return once more to Sweden. He joined the world of theater, a profession he was not to abandon throughout all of his life, even when he became a film director. Sjöström’s only appearance on the screen to reach Brazil was his performance in the role of Isak Borg, a main character in Ingmar Bergman’s film Wild Strawberries (1957) – and was his last piece of acting for cinema. Sjöström also acted the role of an orchestra conductor in Till Glädje/ The Joy (1950), with Bergman as director. Sjöström directed 53 films – all of them silent movies, except for the last two (The Markurells of Wadköping, 1931… read more
Gotta watch it with the KTL soundtrack. Super creepy and only adds to the already stunning visual effects and atmosphere of the film.
A very well written piece of a Silent Film, the twist of events was unexpected for a silent film.. haha. And the lead actor, which I think is the director himself was very good too...
In the tradition of Swedish cinema based on folklore, this gothic masterpiece by Sjöström is atmospherically immersive and thematically rich. It's been accused of being a morally instructive fable, the ambiguity with which the film approaches the big questions being overlooked. In fact the use of double exposure in shots of the reaper & his carriage may point to Sjöstrom's manifold and profound approach to morality.
Victor Sjöström’s supernatural drama gets an extravagant make-over from Julien Duvivier.