One of the most fundamental European films of the silent era. A masterpiece of fantasy cinema that is still relevant and inspiring today.


On New Year's Eve, dying Salvation Army Sister Edit has one last wish: to speak with David Holm. David, a drunkard, is sitting in a graveyard, telling his two drinking buddies about his old friend Georges, who told him about the legend that the last person to die each year has to drive Death's carriage and collect the souls of everybody who dies the following year. Georges himself died on New Year's Eve the previous year…

From 1917, there was a deal between Selma Lagerlöf and A-B Svenska Biografteatern to adapt at least one Lagerlöf novel for film every year. Prior to The Phantom Carriage, Sjöström had made three of these adaptations. Since all of them had taken place in a rural setting, Sjöström felt that he wanted a change for the fourth and suggested the urban, gritty Körkarlen. Shooting took place from May to July 1920 in the newly started Filmstaden studios in Solna. The set design was inspired by the southern Swedish town Landskrona, which correspond to what Lagerlöf had in mind when writing the novel.

The Phantom Carriage was an influence on the later Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman who also utilised the figure of Death in The Seventh Seal, where the referring to him as a "strict master" is a reference to The Phantom Carriage. It is listed in the film reference book “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” and Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror film The Shining features several thematic similarities, as well as the famous sequence where Jack Nicholson uses an axe to break through a wooden door to reach his fleeing wife and child.

The Phantom Carriage was an influence on the later Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman who also utilised the figure of Death in The Seventh Seal.

The Soundtrack

Caspervek released his soundtrack for Körkarlen in Poznan (Poland) in 2015. The score was revised in 2020 for its re-release during the GFFF Festival in 2020, this time performed by a quintet (clarinet, violin, horn, piano, percussion).

The music uses many of Caspervek's usual elements: use of pre-recorded electronics, minimalism, classical music... In addition, it includes several popular Swedish themes and several fragments of contemporary music that reinforce the film's most distressing moments.


Episode

Details

  • Director

    Victor Sjöström

  • Writer

    Victor Sjöström
    Selma Lagerlöf (novel)

  • Runtime

    107 min

  • Year

    1921

  • Country

    Sweden

  • Company

    Svensk Filmindustri

  • Genre

    Drama. Fantasy. Horror


Cast

Victor Sjöström

Hilda Borgström

Tore Svennberg

Astrid Holm


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