A darkly minimalistic, surrealistic ghost story by Ingmar Bergman from 1968, starring Max von Sidow and Liv Ullmann. The former plays Johan, a painter with a torrid romantic life behind him and Ullman plays his doting wife, Alma. They live together in solitude on a deserted island when their bleak windswept domestic bliss is intruded upon by a coterie of very crass, totally realistic looking, upper-middle-class spirits with a taste for fine art. The film relies on subverting common visual storytelling conventions to craft a rather complex psychological thriller
with little to no special effects.
- Creepy Child: A creepy child stalks Johan on the rocks near the sea.
- Haunted Castle: Much of the interaction with the ghosts takes place in the castle.
- Love Makes You Crazy: Johan's sexual longing for a former lover is exploited by the ghosts to ensnare him.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Are the ghosts real or not? The audience cannot know definitively one way or the other.
- Medium Awareness: The frame story is an interview with Alma from the film director in which she tells Johan's story. However, we never see him and he doesn't speak. He wants the audience to think we're seeing Alma through his eyes.
- Painting the Medium: The audio running during the title credits contains dialog from the actual film set, reminding the viewer that they are seeing a film.
- Psychological Torment Zone: Many of the interactions with the spirits seem to be elaborate attempts on their part to torment and consume Johan psychologically.
- Surreal Horror
- Through the Eyes of Madness: Johan or Alma both could be hallucinating or they might be completely lucid.
- Unreliable Narrator: We're seeing everything through Johan's and Alma's perspective, but it's implied that Alma has started to believe in his hallucinations, so Alma's account of Johan's story is difficult for us to believe. Finally, because The Director has written him- or herself into the story, we're faced with another unreliable narrator.
- Woman in White: A beautiful woman in white seduces Johan.
- Would Hurt a Child: Johan kills a small child who he thinks is a specter haunting him.