The Devil's Eye (Ingmar Bergman / Sweden, 1960):
(Djävulens öga)

Ingmar Bergman with Mozart in one hand and Goethe in the other, out to prove that comedy is as desolating as tragedy. Satan (Stig Järrel) sits on a bureaucratic throne with flaming pillars, a sty in his eye courtesy of a woman's chastity. Don Juan (Jarl Kulle), one of hell's pet denizens, experiences damnation as a perpetually thwarted seduction, enduring it like a toothache; he's promised a deduction from his eternal plight if he corrupts the girl's virginity, so he is lent one day and one night in Earth accompanied by his servant (Sture Lagerwall) and a chaperone-demon who morphs into a black cat. The vicar (Nills Poppe), cheerfully blindfolded by faith, invites them to his home, where the missus (Gertrud Fridh) captivates the sidekick satyr and the daughter (Bibi Andersson) is revealed to be Don Juan's target. Lothario meets tomboy in an unfurnished room, he kisses her softly to show his facility, she kisses him fiercely to prove her disinterest -- a debauched aesthete half-asleep with life, Don Juan finds himself suddenly linked to her emotions, and quietly quakes. A rondo capriccioso, schoolmasterish Gunnar Björnstrand insists in front of the projection screen on which it unspools, but the household invaded here could be the one from The Virgin Spring, the suffering heightens with burlesque: Hell to Bergman lurks in the inability to connect, his summarizing scene is the sinner's recounting of own his comeuppance to the family, an aria pushed into silence. The vicar catches a demon in his cupboard and another leaving his wife's bedroom, Don Juan leaves the daughter's virtue untouched while decimating her innocence -- naiveté darkens, worldliness softens, it's a seesaw between the Devil and "Him up there." Back in the depths a top-hatted Nosferatu provides the play-by-play account of Andersson's offscreen despoiling by matrimony, the grand Bergman joke earlier called the infernal "pièce de résistance" by peruked minions and later given its funniest, most tragic telling in Scenes from a Marriage. With Torsten Winge, Axel Düberg, and Allan Edwall. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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