Alma (Liv Ullmann), the wife of the artist Johan Borg (Max von Sydow), recalls the time when her husband had suddenly disappeared. Johan had been increasingly haunted by hallucinations, which he sketched in his notebook ...
Seven years earlier: Alma and Johan are on an island where he paints his pictures. One day Alma discovers Johan’s diary and learns that he has had a passionate affair with the beautiful Veronika Vogler (Ingrid Thulin). A short time later Baron von Merkens (Erland Josephson), the owner of the island, invites the couple to dinner. Among the guests are a group of his friends and relatives who claim to be avid admirers of the great artist Johan Borg. But the way they talk is cynical and offending – cannibals is how Johan describes them.
Johan can’t sleep. Particularly during the “hour of the wolf” – the time just before dawn when the most people die, the most children are born and the most nightmares are dreamt – he must remain awake, for he is otherwise haunted by demons. Dream and reality compete with each other in the images of the film: the Baron crawls up onto the ceiling like a fly, an old woman tears a rubber mask off her face and throws an eyeball into a cocktail glass, a boy clings to Johan’s back and is smashed by him against the cliff. Alma watches helplessly as Johan drifts further and further away ...
Sweden 1966/68, 89 min
Max von Sydow
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