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Dr. Vogler is a mid-nineteenth-century traveling mesmerist and peddler of potions whose magic is put to the test by a small town’s cruel, eminently rational minister of health, Dr. Vergerus. The result is a diabolically clever battle of wits that’s both frightening and funny
For more about The Magician and the The Magician Blu-ray release, see the The Magician Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on October 18, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Writer: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Max von Sydow, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand, Naima Wifstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Bibi Andersson
» See full cast & crew
The Magician Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, October 18, 2010
Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival, Ingmar Bergman's "Ansiktet" a.k.a "The Magician" (1958) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include two interview excerpts with director Ingmar Bergman in which he discusses his work and career and a visual essay with film expert Peter Cowie. The disc also arrives with a 40-page illustrated booklet. In Swedish, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Dr. Vogler (Max von Sydow, The Seventh Seal), a famous magician, and his traveling troupe, which consists of his wife Manda (Ingrid Thulin, The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse) who travels disguised as a man, personal assistant Tubal (Ake Fridell, Wild Strawberries), coach driver Simson (Lars Ekborg, Ticket to Paradise), and grandmother (Naima Wifstrand, Life in the Finn Woods), arrive in Stockholm looking for work. Before they are allowed to stage their show, Police Superintendent Starbeck (Toivo Pawlo, Hello Baby), Minister of Health Dr. Vergerus (Gunnar Bjornstrand, Smiles of a Summer Night), and Consul Abraham Egerman (Erland Josephson, The House of the Yellow Carpet) request a sample - to make sure that the show is safe for ordinary folk, and see for themselves whether Dr. Vogler's reputation is indeed deserved. Dr. Volger and his troupe are also invited to spend the night in Dr. Vergerus' home.
On the following day, Starbeck and Dr. Vergerus, vow to discredit Dr. Vogler - both insisting that real magic does not exist, and that there is a scientific explanation for every single one of Dr. Volger's tricks. Dr. Vergerus even vows to prove that Dr. Vogler isn't mute. Consul Egerman and his wife Ottilia (Gertrud Fridh) are the only ones willing to give Dr. Vogler the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, during the presentation one of Dr. Vogler's magic tricks goes terribly wrong and he is declared dead by Dr. Vergerus.
Dr. Vogler's body is placed in the attic and prepared for an autopsy. Dr. Vergerus can hardly contain his excitement. Moments before he is to begin examining the corpse, however, strange things start happening – the attic door locks from the outside, the mirrors come alive, and Dr. Vogler's ghost appears. Dr. Vergerus desperately attempts to convince himself that he has fallen asleep and having a very bad dream.
At its core, The Magician is very much a confession of sorts that was inspired by Ingmar Bergman's growing dissatisfaction with the unfounded criticism his work generated during the 1940-50s. Therefore, it is not a coincidence that the main protagonist in The Magician is a misunderstood master of his art who is forced to defend himself in front of an obviously hostile audience - throughout his career Bergman often had to defend himself from critics who failed to appreciate his talent.
In the film, failure and success, as well as comedy and drama, are perceived differently by the magician and his audience - clearly because of their polarizing views on science and art. For the magician art is above science, capable of creating inexplicable forms and visuals; art frees the mind. For the magician's audience science is superior to art, and logic superior to beauty and magic.
Naturally, the film's most intriguing observations are about integrity and morality. Bergman suggests that art could be beautiful and inspiring but also deceiving, misrepresenting reality. On the other hand, the great director also effectively argues that science could be used to manipulate and discriminate those who do not embrace its often dogmatic principles. Which one is less damaging? See The Magician to find out what Bergman's answer is.
Note: In 1959, The Magician won the Special Jury Prize (Ingmar Bergman) at the Venice Film Festival.
The Magician Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Ingmar Bergman's The Magician arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm fine-grain master positive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Lee Kline.
Telecine colorist: Allan Rogers/Post Logic, New York."
This is an exceptionally strong high-definition transfer. Fine object detail is outstanding, clarity very pleasing, and contrast levels consistent throughout the entire film. The color-scheme is also impressive - the blacks are rich and very well saturated while the variety of grays and whites look natural. Edge-enhancement and macroblocking are never an issue of concern. There are no traces of excessive noise reduction either - the film's grain structure is very much intact. There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. Truly, aside from a couple of minor flecks popping up here and there, The Magician looks fantastic on Blu-ray. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Magician Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Swedish LPCM 1.0 (Mono). For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from 35mm optical soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated audio workstation."
The Swedish LPCM 1.0 track is solid. The dialog is exceptionally crisp, clean, stable, and easy to follow. There are no balance issues with Erik Nordgren's music score either. Naturally, the dynamic amplitude of the Swedish LPCM 1.0 is rather limited, but the sound has pleasing organic qualities. Lastly, while viewing The Magician I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, hissings, or dropouts to report in this review.
The Magician Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Ingmar Bergman - two interview excerpts with director Ingmar Bergman in which he discusses his work and career. The first is from an interview conducted in 1967 for Swedish television. The second is from an audio interview conducted in 1990 by French filmmaker Olivier Assayas and Swedish author and documentary filmmaker Stig Bjorkman.
-- Swedish Television Interview - in Swedish, with optional English subtitles. (4 min, 1080i).
-- Assayas-Bjorkman Interview - in English, with optional English subtitles. (21 min, 1080i).
Peter Cowie - a visual essay in which Bergman expert Peter Cowie deconstructs The Magician and its unique message. In English and Swedish, with optional English subtitles for the film excerpts. (15 min, 1080p).
Booklet - 40-page illustrated booklet containing French filmmaker Olivier Assayas' essay "A Portrait of the Artist" (the essay originally appeared in the October 1990 issue of Cahier du Cinema); Geoff Andrew's essay "Through A Glass Drolly" (the author is head of film programming at London's BFI Southbank and a contributing editor to Time Out London); and "Bergman on The Magician", an excerpt from the 1994 book Images: My Life in Film).
The Magician Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Thought-provoking and genuinely entertaining, Ingmar Bergman's The Magician has received a terrific treatment from Criterion. I really hope that in 2011 we see more of the great Swedish director's films on Blu-ray - The Virgin Spring, my favorite Summer with Monika, and of course Fanny and Alexander would be special. In the meantime, I urge you to add this terrific film to your libraries. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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