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The Magician

aka The Face (Ansiktet)
Sweden 1958. Dir: Ingmar Bergman. 101 min. DCP

Nothing is quite as it seems in Bergman’s mesmerizing, metaphysical The Magician, a semi-comic, high-gothic period piece that sets faith, art, and illusion on a collision course with science, rationality, and reality. Max von Sydow plays  the master conjurer and mesmerist who leads a troupe of illusionists, charlatans, and snake-oil salesmen into mid-19th-century Stockholm. Gunnar Björnstrand is the cold man of science determined to expose the magician and his cohorts as frauds. Careening from ribald low comedy to nightmarish suspense, and spiked with some startlingly grisly effects, The Magician is throughout a darkly stylish, deliriously diabolical defence of the spellbinding power of the artist — with Bergman, of course, as the film’s true master conjurer! Fellini was a great admirer; the work won the Special Jury Prize at Venice. “Widely underrated ... One of Bergman’s most genuinely enjoyable films” (Geoff Andrew, Time Out).


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REVIEWS

"Haunting and beautiful ... Like all great movies about magic, it has more than a few tricks up its sleeve."

AV Club | full review

"One of Bergman's most tightly structured and frightening films."

Chicago Reader | full review