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DEVIL’S EYE (Djävulens öga)(director/writer: Ingmar Bergman; screenwriter: from a play by Oluf Bang; cinematographer: Gunnar Fischer; editor: Oscar Rosander; music: Erik Nordgren; cast: Bibi Andersson (Britt-Marie), Gunnar Bjornstrand (The Actor), Jarl Kulle (Don Juan), Sture Lagerwall (Pablo), Stig Järrel (Satan), Axel Düberg (Jonas), Nils Poppe (The Vicar), Gertrud Fridh (Renata, Vicar’s wife), Georg Funkquist (Count Armand de Rochefoucauld), Gunnar Sjöberg (Marquis Giuseppe Maria de Macopanza), Torsten Winge (The Old Man), Axel Düberg (Jonas); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Allan Ekelund; Janus Films; 1960-Sweden-dubbed in English)
“Before the third act ended, I had a pain in the rear part of my anatomy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s one of the few comedies Ingmar Bergman (“Shame”/”Scenes from a Marriage”/”Sawdust and Tinsel”) attempted (if this is a true sample, it’s good that he has stayed away from comedies and done mostly psychological dramas). It’s adapted from a play by Oluf Bang. The so-called comedy, which manages hardly any laughs, is more a highly stylized theater piece than a visually stimulating cinematic one. The episodes, divided into theater acts, are introduced by stage actor-narrator Gunnar Björnstrand, who browbeats the audience into accepting it as a comedy and acts as a color analyst does during a sports broadcast by telling us what we are seeing. It takes its plot from the Irish proverb that says “A woman’s chastity is a sty in the devil’s eye.” Its spirit is divided between Goethe’s Faust and Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

The devil (Stig Järrel) has a stye in his eye and, in the hope of curing the pain, sends Don Juan (Jarl Kulle) – sentenced to an eternity of temptation down in Hell – up to mortal Earth for one day and one night to seduce and deflower the engaged virgin 19-year-old beauty Britt-Marie (Bibi Andersson). She’s the prized daughter of a young rural vicar (Nils Poppe).

Upon arriving on Earth, the dynamic duo from Hell, Don Juan and his lustful loyal servant Pablo (Sture Lagerwall), help fix the kind-hearted vicar’s car after it breaks down on a back road and get invited to his house for dinner. Don Juan soon finds a way to move in on Britt-Marie, even though she loves her virtuous fiance Jonas. The twist comes when Don Juan falls in love with Britt-Marie, but she doesn’t love him and proves that by French kissing him and not have her heart go fluttering. This causes him to suffer. In a whimsical way, it offers both a chance of redemption through seduction: her loss of innocence through playing the worldly game and his loss of experience as a messenger doing the devil’s bidding. Pablo falls for the vicar’s naive, sickly and frustrated wife Renata (Gertrud Fridh), only to come up short like his master.

Before the third act ended, I had a pain in the rear part of my anatomy. This devil’s offering is a heavy-handed version of the Don Juan legend, that moves uncomfortably between theatrical comedy and social realism. This minor Bergman work is a depressing watch that wallows in the director’s pessimism and leaves little room for a fresh breeze to blow through.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”