Victor Sjostrom's "The Phantom Carriage" (1921)

A gorgeous liquid nightmare of a movie, the dark Swedish masterpiece The Phantom Carriage is still, over ninety years since its release, nothing short of shocking. Filmed in 1920 and released the following New Year’s Day, this story of a girl’s dying wish to redeem one troubled man’s soul remains one of the most sumptuously shot and technically accomplished films ever made, silent and otherwise. Years before the availability of the optical printer, director/star Victor Sjöström utilized painstakingly timed hand-cranked cameras and intricate edits to execute its flashbacks-within-flashbacks and countless double exposures — lending this ghost story a haunting, vivid dimension, from the otherworldly and familiar specter of Death to the chilling Swedish landscape that exists as its own character. As well, it has the distinction of originating an immeasurable number of elements throughout cinematic history, from The Seventh Seal’s hooded Reaper to Nicholson’s axe-wielding rampage in The Shining. It’s no wonder that Ingmar Bergman called it “the film of all films,” and watched it at least once a year following his first viewing at age fifteen. It’s a film that elevated its medium to heights it still, to this day, only rarely attains.
Dir. Victor Sjostrom, 1921, 35mm, 104 min.

Watch Cinefamily’s original trailer for “The Phantom Carriage”!