Undeniably, this is the most haunting of all films directed by Ingmar Bergman. While it’s not as greatly appreciated as his other hit titles, Hour of the Wolf proves to have an overpowering energy, which easily allows the film’s core substance to reflect on the connexion between mental illness and demons that haunt us within.
Through the utterly surreal story about Johan, a painter possessed by evil illusions, Bergman wanted to make the viewer realize what it really means to be a self-centered artistic persona in the ever-changing world. Johan isn’t able to sleep. While awake, he imagines all the strange and despicable people, who glorify him at first, only to ridicule him just a few hours later. Johan later introduces those creatures as emotionless and cruel demons to his frightened wife Alma. She, on the other hand, contemplates on one specific possibility: when two people love each other very much, they can actually share the same dreams and thoughts, ultimately merging their deepest fears and needs and becoming a somewhat single entity.
Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann give truly believable and positively eerie performances, as the pair bound for a forthcoming psychological downfall. The film creates a very nightmarish and sombre atmosphere, assaulting the viewer with perfectly horrifying and distressing images. Even though Hour of the Wolf won’t necessarily attract a broader audience, it’s still a fantastic and refreshing twist to an exemplary Gothic horror tale.