Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Phantom Chariot

Also known as The Phantom Carriage, this film is a 1921 silent and is based on the book Körkarlen. The old legend is that the last person to die in sin on New Year's Eve must drive the carriage that picks up the souls who die during the coming year.

via youtube:

Viewing this film I was reminded of Whittier's words
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"
Part of this movie is a vision of what "might have been" contrasted with the wasted/wastrel life. It also pictures the influence we have on others and the responsibility we bear when we deliberately lead people astray.

I do admit to feeling irritation at the do-gooder who takes no care at all for her own health even when warned of the risk. Surely taking some basic precautions while serving the poor and sick does not reflect poorly on those who serve. Her careless sacrifice is held up as exemplary, but, while I agree sacrifice is noble, I don't think the sacrifice of her life was necessary. That needless sacrifice born of careless disregard for basic health considerations deprived countless others of care.

I'm bookmarking this film with my Halloween movies because it is a ghost story, but it is also a strong moral tale well done. It's that "well done" that sets this apart, as so many moral tales are sheer schmaltzy drivel.

1000 Misspent Hours says it "earns distinction is in its extraordinary structural sophistication." Slant Magazine concludes "Overall:"Don't get killed on New Year's Eve" and "give your special effects narrative agency" are among the crucial lessons to be learned from this essential Blu-ray." Senses of Cinema notes that
Sjöström and his legendary cameraman Julius Jaenzon (credited here under his pseudonym “J. Julius”) used double exposures in The Phantom Carriage to create the illusion of two worlds – one natural, the other supernatural – in the same space.
DVD Talk says it is
a spooky morality play. A campfire parable that is to the Swedish chill what Dickens' A Christmas Carol was to English winters or It's a Wonderful Life to the American can-do spirit in difficult times.
The 1001 Flicks blog has a review, as does

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