Thriller (Bo Arne Vibenius / Sweden, 1974):
(Thriller: En Grym Film; They Call Her One Eye)

The contrasting images are the winding dirt road near the beginning (a farmhouse anchors the rural composition) and the highway lined straight towards the horizon near the end, just one of many stark visuals illustrating the destruction of Christina Lindberg's contours as single-minded revenge hardens and hollows her. The heroine is molested as a child, the scene, as in I Spit On Your Grave, unnervingly sunlit; as a mute farm maiden, she misses her bus and ends up sprawled in the orange couch of Heinz Hopf's pad, where the creep promptly hooks her on heroin. Trapped, Lindberg is soon turning tricks to support her habit, but not without resistance: scratching a client's face gets a scalpel jabbed into her eye, the ocular close-up is followed by equally gruesome porno inserts (the different stock of the spliced images only heightens her emotional erosion) as she plies her trade with mournful blankness. There's something of Godard's Mondrian surface circa 1967 to Bo Arne Vibenius' flat use of the frame in Hopf's apartment, but the filmmaker remains aligned above all to mentor Ingmar Bergman even in the supposedly soulless grindhouse fields -- the slimy villain is bearded to resemble Gunnar Björnstrand in Smiles of a Summer Night, the letter-reading gag from Winter Light is twice recalled. Vibenius lays the exploitation pieces patiently (expressively eyepatched, Lindberg takes up martial-arts and shooting) until it's time for the blood squibs to squish, and for the revenge narrative to be pushed into the ascetic, concentrated climactic movement. Bloodletting is overcranked onto a blackened background (abstract shades are later found in The Killer Elite and Herzog's Woyzeck), handheld POV shots distort and clarify, every tawdry trope is called out onto the pitiless flat plains for the excoriating genre finale -- Lindberg executes the vengeance audiences came to cheer, and spiritually dissolves. With Despina Tomazani, Solveig Andersson, Per-Axel Arosenius, and Gunnel Wadner.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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