The Phantom Carriage

The Phantom Carriage ★★★★½

I went really ambitious on this one, spending almost all of yesterday in the company of Selma Lagerlöf's amazing novel and then moving on to watching this, almost equally, amazing adaptation for the first time in my life. Why have I waited so long? And why oh why have I not read Lagerlöf since my school years?

The story of The Phantom Carriage have been present in my entire life. My grandfather is not only an old boxer and butcher but also a bookworm and a great storyteller. He has more than often quoted the novel that this movie is based upon, and I couldn't help thinking of him constantly during yesterday's indulgement in The Phantom Carriage. Just as I couldn't stop thinking about the resemblance to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The Phantom Carriage is a much darker tale though, and even if both of these have a clear religious and political commentary embedded in the supernatural story, The Phantom Carriage at least doesn't end with David Holm throwing money around in the end.

It was not for nothing that Selma Lagerlöf became the first woman to get the Nobel Price. She's a great storyteller, and there's a melody in her writings that is hard to not get sucked into. And as a "modern" human being I'm not that impressed with moving pictures just for the sake of them being just that: moving pictures. This old silent film needed something more to impress me, and this old silent film from 1921 sure impressed me. Victor Sjöström has really understood the tone of the novel and the music that comes with it is in tune with the melody of Lagerlöf's writings. Sure, it doesn't live up to the novel on every single point, but I can't imagine how it could be any better than it is.

I could write about how I cringed a little during reading and watching this story. Not because of the eerie atmosphere, not because it revolved around death and misery, no, because of the morality lesson and that Lagerlöf wants me to feel sorry for David Holm right from the get-go. I never did. And I also find deeply religious people more horrifying than an old carriage with an old poor emaciated horse, and that is all I want to write about that, because it doesn't really matter. There's so much more to this story and to this movie for me to get hung-up on these things. It could also be that my soul isn't mature enough to really embrace all of these things that make me feel uncomfortable, and that must mean I'm not ready to get reaped yet.

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