Eye For Film >> Movies >> Music In Darkness (1948) Film Review
Legendary director Ingmar Bergman hits the right note more than once with this touching, if somewhat lightweight, melodrama.
The Swede is one of the most important auteurs of the last century, with his films focussing on themes such as mortality, religion and loneliness - and this early feature has the foundations of these obsessions, although the gripping psychological drama of later works is absent.
The story follows soldier Bengt Vyldeke (Birger Malmsten) who is shot on a practice firing range while trying to rescue a puppy. The sickeningly cute wee Andrex Labrador must have been chasing one heck of a pesky bog roll to end up on a field in the middle of nowhere - but, hey, suspension of disbelief and all that.
Anyway, the accident blinds him, his fiancee dumps him and he is forced to go and stay with his wonderfully bossy aunt Beatrice (Naima Wifstrand).
Her young maid Ingrid (Mai Zetterling) falls in love with him while accompanying him on walks and reading to him but he rejects her because of her social standing.
Needless to say, the tables are soon turned. Bengt, a talented pianist, is refused a place at the music academy and is forced to play in restaurants and work as a piano tuner to scrape a living - all the while being degraded and exploited - while Ingrid begins to train as a teacher and climbs the social ladder.
Can they overcome society and his disability and live happily ever after? In Hollywood, there would be no doubt. But the path of true love does not run smoothly in Bergman's universe.
Without giving too much away, Bergman refuses to deliver a fairytale ending.
The problem is you don't really want Bengt to get his girl - he isn't a pleasant character and you don't grow to like him. You feel sympathy for his disability and the way he is taken advantage of but he is a violent, foul-tempered git who prefers to wallow in his miserable state rather than try to make his life better.
Music In Darkness' real strength is its visuals. Bergman is famed for his expressionist style - favouring heavy use of shadow, deep focus and twisted camera angles - and the contrast between light and dark in the mise-en-scene here is masterful. The best example is when Bengt is reunited with Ingrid in the forest. The heavily stylised and artificial set harks back to expressionist classics such as The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari.
The other stand-out scene is when Bengt is abandoned at the railway station and wanders out on to the tracks. His desperation as he tries to find his way to safety with a train coming up behind him is almost Hitchcockian in its intensity - and is shot in glorious deep focus so you see the deadly steamer advance at speed.
So while it may not be the most original plot or as good as Bergman's later works, Music In Darkness still sings a pretty enough tune to please.Reviewed on: 17 Sep 2006
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