Precious Bodily Fluids

The Magician (Ingmar Bergman, 1958)


The original Swedish title is The Face, and that’s more fitting. Diegetic conversations are all about faces, particularly the face of the the magician. Faces convey truth and deception, they bear false beards and eyes that frighten so as to distract from their mendacity. These characters, as usual for Bergman, can’t get away from metaphysics, but here it is interwoven with these questions of veracity. Most of the soundtrack features zero music, almost zero diegetic noise, for that matter. The conclusion is something like the intrusion of a farce, with police entering the world and upbeat orchestral music accompanying their arrival. This follows a film filled with Bergman-esque dialogue, including such zingers as, “Nothing is true” and “It’s meaningless.” The troupe of magicians are compared with clergy, deceivers who prey upon the gullible. Camera work marked by static frames and lots of quick zooms into medium close-ups to punctuate moments of conversational climax. This one’s slow in terms of its dialogue, which gets stuck on abstract topics and regularly kicks the narrative into the back seat in order to foreground those discussions. For example, quite a lot of diegetic time passes between the initial wager over the magicians and the actual performance. This could be described as “wasted time,” since we see nothing of any major characters, only marginalized characters like the innkeeper, the young maids, and the magician’s assistants.

This entry was published on June 27, 2014 at 4:59 pm. It’s filed under 1950s Cinema, Ingmar Bergman, Swedish Film and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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