Set in the mid-nineteenth century, Max von Sydow plays Vogler, a traveling mute magician who opens the film arriving in a small town with his assistants. The local elites waylay the party, intent on prosecuting them for their own selfish reasons. But Vogler proves more cunning than they anticipated.
The first and second acts play as terrific psychological horror, culminating in a nightmarish revenge sequence. But then writer/director Ingmar Bergman makes an abrupt pivot to force the underlying theme of an artist and his audience to the forefront. I appreciate what Bergman was saying, and his commitment to the message, but the tonal whiplash threw me. Though it resonated, the abrupt petulance cooled me to the artist’s plight.