DirkH’s review published on Letterboxd:
Film #54 of Make me watch your favourite. Recommended by Trevor May.
I love watching silent films as they always instill in me a sense of history. Placing a piece of art in time often means it is judged for what it represents, not what it is. The resounding and undeniable infuence Sjöström's masterpiece has had on cinema and a couple of its greatest directors does not merely lie in its innovative nature, but also in its intrinsic qualities that easily stand up to modern films.
In essence a melodramatic morality tale, The Phantom Carriage recounts a Dickensian ghost story that is extraordinarily atmospheric and extremely bleak. It has a fractured narrative which surprised me somewhat, pleasantly that is. The story of past regrets, folly and the harshness of life unfolds beautifully, carried by an intriguing protagonist, played really well by the film's director. I was surprised by how dark a story it was in the end, unforgiving for its characters and thus for its audience, but never without purpose. The scene preceeding the final scene was tenser and more gutwrenching than most modern horror films manage to produce. It also enhances the inkling of hope we are given in the end.
Visually it is stunning. There is some truly memorable imagery and the way it uses double exposure is really impressive. The constrast between the sepia toned interiours and the stark blue colours of the outside world is very beautiful and a great example of the craftmanship involved in the creation of this film.
And then there's that music.
My word. That music.
The icing on the cake.