A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Devil's Eye (Ingmar Bergman, 1960)

Jarl Kulle and Bibi Andersson in The Devil's Eye
You'd think artists would be content to let Mozart and Da Ponte have the last word on Don Juan, but no. Byron, Pushkin, Kierkegaard, Shaw, and Camus all had their go at him, so why not Bergman? This rather turgid and talky fantasy has the Don (Jarl Kulle) returning to earth to seduce Britt-Marie (Bibi Andersson), a young woman whose virginity has caused a proverbial sty in the devil's (Stig Järrel) eye. That so much ado is made about the virginity of a woman about to be married in 1960's Sweden is only one of the problems with the movie's setup. She's the daughter of a vicar (Nils Poppe) in a small Swedish village whose wife, Renata (Gertrud Fridh), feels neglected and has sunk into a psychosomatic invalidism. When Don Juan arrives, he brings along his manservant, Pablo (Sture Lagerwall), who takes it on himself to seduce Renata. What starts out to be a sex farce turns into a disquisition on the nature of love. It's not helped by the archness of some of the performances, especially Andersson's. She's made up and costumed to look like the heroine of an early 1960s domestic sitcom like The Donna Reed Show, and it's hardly plausible that she should choose her goofy fiancé, Jonas (Axel Düberg), over the brooding but intelligent Don. Bergman clashed with his longtime cinematographer Gunnar Fischer during filming, putting an end to their collaboration but opening the way to an even more fruitful one with Sven Nykvist.  

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