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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


 The Magician aka Ansiktet [Blu-ray]  

 Sweden, 1958



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Svensk Filmindustri (SF)

Video: Criterion Collection - Spine # 537


Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:41:37.174 

Disc Size: 37,542,316,250 bytes

Feature Size: 29,774,303,232 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.97 Mbps

Chapters: 20

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: October 12th, 2010



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 matted to 1.78

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio Swedish 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit



English (SDH), none



• New visual essay by Bergman scholar Peter Cowie (14:55 in HD!)
• Brief 1967 video interview with director Ingmar Bergman about the film (3:37 in HD!)
• Rare English-language audio interview with Bergman conducted by filmmakers Olivier Assayas and Stig Björkman in 1990 (20:51 in HD!)
• 38-page liner notes booklet featuring excerpts from a 1990 tribute to the film by Assayas, a new essay by critic Geoff Andrew, and an excerpt from Bergman’s autobiography Images: My Life in Film





Description: Ingmar Bergman’s The Magician (Ansiktet) is an engaging, brilliantly conceived tale of deceit from one of cinema’s premier illusionists. Max von Sydow stars as Dr. Vogler, a nineteenth-century traveling mesmerist and peddler of potions whose magic is put to the test in Stockholm by the cruel, eminently rational royal medical adviser Dr. Vergérus. The result is a diabolically clever battle of wits that’s both frightening and funny, shot in rich, gorgeously gothic black and white.



The Film:

In THE MAGICIAN, Ingmar Bergman takes two favorite motifs--masks and magic--and explores them on a number of different levels. Albert Emanuel Vogler (Max von Sydow), a 19-century magician, brings a troupe of traveling illusionists to a small Swedish town where the people don't believe in magic. Led by Vogler, the troupe proceeds to play with the townspeople's minds, and director Bergman, in turn, makes imaginative use of editing, lighting, and special effects to toy with audience expectations. Things are never quite what they seem, either narratively or cinematically. The film's mysterious nature is further enhanced by the dark, rich, gothic look of Bergman's mise-en-scene. Though at times the story is overwhelmed by its theme and symbols (especially in its final third), THE MAGICIAN is still fascinating, presenting a myriad of challenging ideas about magic, reality, and the nature of film itself. The acting, as in typical in Bergman, is exceptionally good, with Bjornstrand a standout.

Excerpt from TV Guide  located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Firstly - we don't own the Tartan DVD from 2001 of Bergman's The Magician (available HERE) to compare but the Blu-ray must surely be a dramatic improvement. This is a gorgeous film looking pristine in 1080P by Criterion. Contrast is, predictably, impressive with rich inky blacks but detail - especially in close-ups - is also surprisingly strong. I don't see signs of digital manipulation but it wouldn't be unusual or Criterion to perform some of their magic here - at least in the form of clean-up as there are only a few minor speckles visible. I also suspect that some 'repair' work was done in a couple of instances - minimizing inherent damage. However, it was done so well I couldn't be positive. The Magician is filled with darkness and shadows. Grain is not as apparent as The Seventh Seal Blu-ray but there is some definite texture to this image. There were plenty of times in my viewing where I was in awe of the visuals - both in regards to Gunnar Fischer's cinematography and how it is supported magnificently by the Criterion Blu-ray.

















Audio :

Criterion remain faithful with a linear PCM mono in original Swedish rendered at 1152 kbps. The flat lossless audio presents the dialogue with some perceived depth and range. Erik Nordgren's sparsely used, gentle but impassive, score sounds almost non-existent in the background at times. There are some effect noises - odd haunting sounds that give the track no difficulties. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked disc - as are all Criterions to date.



Extras :

No commentary but we do get a new visual essay by the world's leading Bergman expert - scholar Peter Cowie - who talks for 15-minutes on the many themes of the film and he places them within the context of the director's body of work. Fascinating for fans of the director. There are two interview excerpts - a brief (3.5-minute) 1967 video interview with director Ingmar Bergman about the film - conducted for Swedish Television. The second is a rare English-language audio interview with Bergman conducted by French director Olivier Assayas and documentary filmmaker Stig Björkman in 1990. This runs for 20 minutes in HD and is quite interesting. Criterion include a hefty 38-page liner notes booklet featuring excerpts from a 1990 tribute to the film by Assayas, a new essay by critic Geoff Andrew, and an excerpt from Bergman’s autobiography Images: My Life in Film.



This is no minor Bergman (if there is such a thing). I feel fortunate that my first viewing was on Blu-ray which really... exhausted me. I don't discount some digital improvement but nothing was overly visible on that front. As far as the presentation - it had a 'majestic' feel. Bergman's power is very evident and while the narrative may appear elusive - The Magician is the type of film that begs for repeat viewings. It maintains its seething, eerie, aura throughout - especially on Blu-ray which is the definitive manner of seeing it in your home theater. A HUGE recommendation. 


Gary Tooze

September 21st, 2010




About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze








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