Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 595
Hour of the Wolf is a story film, with a beginning, a middle, and an end (though, as Godard said in another context, "not necessarily in that order"); it displays specific literary references, as opposed to Persona's general filmic ones; and it confronts the stylistic innovations of certain nouvelle vague directors in a way more consistent with what we recognize as good old Bergman. (p. 36)
[Rare] in a Bergman film is the reliance on "outside sources." In Hour of the Wolf, the model is Mozart's The Magic Flute and, though a specific reference to it during the party seems at first superfluous, we later realize that it is doubly relevant: because the film is a retelling of the Magic Flute story, and because, whereas the dramas from Through a Glass Darkly to Persona were "chamber" films … Hour of the Wolf is frankly operatic. The settings are expansive rather than constrictive; there are many characters, and each is given a verbal aria; the treatment, like most libretti, is melodramatic in the extreme. (p. 38)
As Bergman has reminded us, we spend half our movie-watching time in the dark. A film is made in fragments and edited to form something cohesive. Only in the last decade have many film-makers abandoned the pretension of wholeness; the nouvelle vague directors popularized this idea. And only in his last two films has Bergman attempted to relate this to his patented style. If Persona was a recognition of the nouvelle vague, Hour of the Wolf may be said to be an understanding of it…. In this film he has added to his usual reference book the quotes from The Magic Flute (and, to a lesser extent, the works of E.T.A. Hoffmann). Although these references are not the irrelevant quotes that Godard, after a morning's browse in Left Bank bookstalls, inserts in the afternoon's footage. Bergman's reliance on them provokes the feeling that he's trying to support, or perhaps camouflage, a weak artistic performance…. [To] his personal interests Bergman bends the originally French techniques in a way that is more subdued than that of Persona and better suited to those interests.
For instance, Persona's fusion of those two nouvelle vague metaphysical mouthfuls, temporal indeterminacy and the narration of possibilities, is reduced in Hour of the Wolf to a story with an identifiable chronology, and there is only one sequence, Johan's disappearance soon after his meeting with Veronica, which represents possible variations on a single action. (pp. 38-9)
Bergman has also applied the shuffling of filmic tenses, a technique associated with Alain Resnais, to Hour of the Wolf. The present tense is represented by the interviews with Alma, the past by the "story," and the past conditional by Johan's nightmares. The directors differ in the extent to which they use tenses other than the present: Resnais's are usually flashes (whether back, forward or inward), while Bergman's are fleshed out. Resnais's are shots, Bergman's are sequences. Before restricting Bergman to a mere extension of Resnais's innovations, we should recall that Bergman developed a full and integral sequence of tenses in Wild Strawberries, released in Paris two years before Hiroshima Mon Amour….
[So it] would be demeaning to think of Hour of the Wolf as the sum of Resnais's, Godard's, Mozart's and Hoffmann's parts. Bergman elicits most of his best effects from his trademarked bag. (p. 39)
Richard Corliss and Jonathan Hoops, "Film Reviews: 'Hour of the Wolf'," in Film Quarterly (copyright 1968 by The Regents of the University of California; reprinted by permission of the University of California Press), Vol. XXI, No. 4, Summer, 1968, pp. 33-40.
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