THE DEVILS EYE
The Devil's Eye was Ingmar Bergmans first venture into outright comedy. After weightily philosophical and gloomy works like The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, The Magician/The Face (1958) and The Virgin Spring (1959) wherein Bergman frequently questioned the ultimate meaning of it all and harshly condemned the hypocritical, the religious and the self-important, you might argue that Bergman needed to do something lighter to relieve all that intellectual solemnity. The truth though is that The Devil's Eye is only another face of Ingmar Bergmans philosophical weightiness he still sets up small town petty bourgeoisie ministers and their families so that he can rend apart the hypocrisy and suppressed passion in their lives (Bergmans own father was a Lutheran minister); as in The Magician, he is fascinated with individuals of seductive power and their ability to expose chinks in the armour of the supposedly virtuous; he still condemns Christian religion the ending where Don Juan walks away with his pride intact and despises both God and the Devil for their games is the point where he clearly comes to stand in as Bergmans mouthpiece.
The sad truth about The Devil's Eye is that comedy is simply just not Ingmar Bergmans forte. Try as he might to make a comedy, Bergman does not seem able to make anything other than another philosophically weighty work about religion and hypocrisy. (Although to Bergmans credit The Devil's Eye was never a film he felt particularly enthused about making he tells in his autobiography how he only agreed to make it so that the producer would back The Virgin Spring). Actual laughs are few and far between. That said, The Devil's Eye is not without its amusements. Jarl Kulle has a perfect languid aloofness as Don Juan there is a wonderfully amusing scene in the first few moments where he succeeds in wooing a woman who has come to kill him, insisting that she still try to kill him even as she falls into his arms.
Once the film arrives at the central situation, there prove to be some amusing reversals of expectation the wolfish Stur Lagerwall seducing the vicars wife Gertrud Fridh; the rather dense vicar (Nils Poppe) managing to trick the demon (Ragner Arvadson) into becoming trapped in a cupboard; and predictably Don Juan falling for the vicars daughter (Bibi Andersson). All but this last of these work well. Oddly though, Don Juans dilemma is something that Bergman fails to let us become engaged in. The struggle that Jarl Kulle portrays as Don Juan is all theatrical anguish we see little of his fall or even the seduction itself. The other supporting stories are far more fully realised. That said, Bergman does end on an appealingly blurred moral resolution with the vicars daughter lying to her new husband about he being the only man she has kissed and we see that the seduction has not entirely been a failure after all.
Bergman, who was a theatre director before becoming a filmmaker, has made The Devil's Eye a film that is decidedly theatrical in nature costumes changes occur behind panels in puffs of smoke and there is a narrator who talks direct to the camera and even refers to what is going on as a play. (There are occasional similarities between The Devil's Eye and George Bernard Shaws play Don Juan in Hell (1903), which was a series of debates over the merits of Heaven and Hell held between Don Juan and The Devil in the afterlife). In the end, The Devil's Eye proves only a minor Ingmar Bergman entry an experiment where it seemed that Bergman proved that comedy wasnt his cup of tea but one that proves, albeit lightweight and not unamusing upon occasion.
Ingmar Bergmans other ventures into fantastic cinema have been: The Seventh Seal (1957), a profound meditation on religion and atheism as a knight sits down to play chess with Death; The Magician/The Face (1958) about a performing troupe who may or may not have real supernatural powers; the revenge film The Virgin Spring (1959); Hour of the Wolf (1968) about a tormented artists hallucinations come to life; the adaptation of Mozarts fantasy opera The Magic Flute (1975); and the family saga/ghost story Fanny and Alexander (1982).
Clip from the film here:-