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The Magician Review

Image for The Magician
★★★★

In a suitably hypnotic historical piece Von Sydow plays Dr. Vogler, a 19th Century magician-mesmerist with a travelling company, held on the outskirts of Stockholm for intense interrogation on the charge that he is a blasphemous fraud.

Since he himself is riddled with doubt the film becomes a debate on truth versus illusion, reason versus religion, embodied in Vogler's own dual nature, part charlatan, part Christ-like man of miracles. Duality and delusions abound: Vogler's wife Manda (Thulin) is disguised as his boyish assistant; Vogler's black wig and beard emphasise the white mask that is his face; a dying actor named Spegei (which means mirror) penetrates Vogler's mask and continues to haunt him; Vogler's opponent, Dr. Vergerus (Bjornstrand), is treated to some startling theatrical illusions that leave him shaken.

A Gothic melodrama relieved by comedy and effective conjuring tricks, this can be read as a provocative metaphysical chiller or as one of Bergman's most revealing personal works in its picture of an artist ruthlessly criticised and humiliated who plots his revenge, gives his tormentors a lot to think about and, vindicated, rides off on a jubilant note.