Soumajit Nath’s review published on Letterboxd:
"The Phantom carriage" is one of the most groundbreaking achievement in the time of silent era of film industry from one of the most influential Swedish film-director, Victor Sjöström. This film's genre is horror-drama, setting it's background story based upon a very conventional folkfore fantasy tale about a legend, Phantom Carriage driver(A faithful servant of death who used to drive a carriage, collecting souls from deceased persons' bodies up to next year..until another most sinful person who will die very last moment of New Year's eve take his place). The film is well known for its special effects that's really appreciable on that time, its advanced (for the time) narrative structure with some well developed characters and it's exceptional style of storytelling using flashbacks within flashbacks, stories within stories , and for having been a major influence on the works of Ingmar Bergman.
Film's main protagonist is a drunk fella with abusive nature, whose name is David Holm who proceeds a series of sins specially on his wife as well as his well wishers(Sister Edith) and his friends also...ultimately realises his faults and regrets for his sins after reaching too much close to death .and realising..how the terrible influences of his abuses and rude behaviour led his wife insist to take her as well as her childrens' lives. That's the basic overall plot story of this 1 and half hour long film. Sjöström’s careful portrayal of Holm is one key to the film’s staying power. I didn't know even who the lead actor is...but while checkin' the film's info after finishing the film, I was literally shocked...that drunken fella, David is noone but film's director(Sjöström)..a teribble direction with a teribble performance in lead role such a genius he is.
David's character is one of the most interestingly nd carefully developed character I have ever seen..at first he is introduced as a very bad person who used to abuse his wife, doesn't care for anyone, very much self centric...drowned and addicted in drunkenness. Holm’s main failing is a devotion to the bottle that leaves him violent and mean, and it’s easy to imagine the character as a buffoonish, who doesn't control his rage. But Sjöström includes a different angle in the character of David that makes this role so deep and relevant..also successful to create a terrific tragedy of the perspective of that spoil personality.
Series of themes are perfectly placed to create different subplots in different place of the film. Like belief in God and efficiency of sacrifice is beautifully portrayed in the scene included Sister Edith, she use to play a role that reflects the ideology of God(Jesus) in the film who sacrifices herself for giving another chance to a very bad guy full with sins i.e David. Not only that but also it gives a very subtle notes to give people knowledge about growing fear of Tuberculosis in society on that time. Moreover this film introduces itself atfirst a very challenging journey through sorrow and despairs of different characters but ends with showing us a picture of a happy family that gives a perfectly sweet n happy ending where the head of the family David transforms himself from a bad guy to a good one..sets up a perfect example of reformation..I.e no matter how bad u are..but u must have given a chance to realize y'r fault and u should try to give an effort to reform yourself as David did in the film....
If u have already watched a lot of Silent films..then u may have noticed some difference regarding performances of actors in this film. Sjöström as well as other actors gave so much natural expression that gives a tremendous influence to make the film lookin' so much close to real, that stand in contrast to the highly stylized acting found in many silents. His camera angles aren’t particularly expressionistic, but they serve the story, sometimes simply by pointedly isolating a single character in the frame, or using an iris in to frame the actor even more tightly, lending an extra poignancy to the moment. In case of other silent films of that time due to abscense of dialogues and restricted use of limited inner titles, actors try to give a very much explainable, cinematic filmsy look and expressions so that we can ezily understand what they want to tell..but that make the films li'll bit off or unreal. Here a completely new approach of acting is followed that makes this film's level higher.
Yes this is a horror film. But if u will watch this with an expectation to get an experience of a chilling scary feeling that we have received from "conjuring" and "insidious" like films...then this film will be disappointment for u..as it's main purpose to experience us a brief journey of a life, giving some important lessons with developing an imaginary story like how much precious our lives are..like we should behave gently with others..like every evil deeds should be punished that's why we should realise our faults and regrets for it before the death comes to us otherwise our faults may be the reason of teribble conclusion of some one's life.