January 10, 2012

The Devil's Eye

Few people are capable of true love. Their suffering is unbounded. It's been said that they are close to God, that they are mirrors reflecting his light, making life more bearable for the rest of us poor devils who fumble in the dark. This could be true. I know nothing about it.
-from Ingmar Bergman's The Devil's Eye

In the summer of 2001 I fell in love with cinema. My companion in this love-falling was Dave McGregor. We shared an apartment for the summer, and together we pushed into the most esoteric corners of cinema we knew existed. Which is to say, we watched some of the stranger Hollywood classics, and not much more. All we had access to or knowledge of was what was available to rent at Regina's Blockbuster video and to purchase at A&B Sound. We did not even have the internet to guide us.

So we watched Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, and Robert Redford's hidden gem Ordinary People. There were more: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Midnight Cowboy, all the Kubrick films, Dog Day Afternoon, and Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter. So many great Hollywood movies.

Then I moved up to Grande Prairie on my own to make $ and had to do my cinematic exploration alone, scouring the shelves of Grande Prairie's rental stores in search of obscure-ish film titles. In 'Movie Update' I found a VHS copy of Ingmar Bergman's 1960 film The Devil's Eye. So I rented it. I'd never seem a Bergman film.

I took it home, put it in my VCR, and pressed play.

At first it seemed to be an unexceptional movie. But as I watched something extraordinary happened: I noticed what the camera was doing. It was hanging back. The shots were playing out in a subtly different manner from anything I'd ever seen before in my Hollywood upbringing: characters walked from room to room, and at times it seemed the director was as interested in the rooms the actors were in as he was in the actors themselves.

It wasn't trumpeted. Bergman wasn't screaming his interest. But it was there all the same. I'd payed close enough attention to notice that there was all this dead space in the film -the dead space of uninhabited rooms. Human faces were of interest to Bergman, but so was the space those faces lived in.

And that was it: with a few brief shots in a humorous Ingmar Bergman film my enlightenment, cinematic and spiritual, began.

Watch the clip above and you'll see it, if you look carefully.

This is unrelated to anything, but watch the camera zoom in at just after the two and a half minute mark. It's a beautiful little zoom. Even though Bergman came to hate this film I still admire it greatly. Greatly. Watch the above clip and I dare you to tell me there's not something significant going on in this little movie. I think it's very, very funny, and there are a few scenese which, I feel, are absolutely perfect: they could not be improved.

So far as I know this film is completely unavailable on DVD in North America, but it is available on youtube in a half-decent transfer (if I ran the Criterion Collection for one month, I would do whatever I could to add this film to their list of upcoming releases).

part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4
part 5
part 6
part 7
part 8

post written by SINNERS


Dave M said...

I remember getting a copy of this movie in the mail. A vhs copy of a vhs tape. It was a great experience watching it. I still don't totally understand why this movie is completely overlooked, its at least as good as The Magician, maybe better.

s$s said...

I forgot about sending you that. that's ridiculous.

I don't remember caring for The Magician, but it's kinda lumped in with a whole bunch of late-50s-Early-60s Bergman movies I watched around the same time. My memory of it is very very vague, mostly I just see Max Von Sydow with ridiculous facial hair and the GORGEOUS Ingrid Thulin looking -sigh!- not gorgeous.