The Phantom Carriage

The Phantom Carriage ★★★★

I accept that my time here is over
My home is inside the darkness
Into the night the hearse will take me
I cope with fate, let's take a ride

Sjöström manages to make the morbid turning into beautiful, paradoxically in a film that basically deals with death. The backdrops are palely ornamented with glittering to opaque lights. it resembles a faint yellow, as if an internal light were cautiously going out. The characters' emotion is monstrously well captured in their faces, that denote a sadness and a terror for something that is unavoidable. The film perfectly fits the muteness of the works of the time, as the silence of the actors and actresses makes us delve deeper into their performances, watching the emotions boil over. It doesn't take a word to understand the depressing tone that the plot develops.

It is exactly at this point where everything comes to mastery. The chariot rider is the very representation of death. Its legend is as real as possible, as no human being can escape it, but it remains, even so, a legend surrounded by taboo, because after we cease to exist, no one knows what the other world is like and not even if there is a supernatural portal that swallows our existence. The film captures well the reaper of lives going through the last seconds of people's lives, as an inevitable presence, an invisible force of nature that leaves its marks when it appears. The woman who suffers from a terminal illness, the man who commits suicide, and the unfortunate man who dies by drowning, with his lungs drenched in water. Everyone faces the inevitable. The presence that is never invited and that awaits the last breath. The death knight makes no distinctions. He will always be there.

The way the direction brings the rider to the carriage brings a sense of sadness and vulnerability. We don't see a monster hungry to gather souls or a diabolical figure who has come to give an account on the corporeal plane, but rather a normal human being who controls the cart, with no traces of the past or signs of a curse. It's the way the movie naturalizes death, in the most mundane way possible.

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