The Phantom Carriage - DVD review (3 stars)

The Phantom Carriage

Tartan DVD ((U) 91min)

There’s no doubt a historical interest, particularly in terms of early special effects, in Victor The Wind Sjöström’s 1921 Swedish screen adaptation of Selma Lagerlöf’s novel, but quite whether the tone of religious moralism that hangs over it will sit easy with the modern viewer is open to question.

In it, David Holm, a drunken wastrel, dies in a brawl with fellow down and outs at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, thus inheriting the mantel of the ghostly driver of a carriage destined to transport the dead to eternal punishment. Like a rather more Calvinistic A Christmas Carol, the action then transports him back through personal history to the brother, wife and children his fecklessness has betrayed, as well as the dying Salvation Army worker who tried to help him. The director plays the lead, and to very good effect, but to call this curio enjoyable beyond this single performance would be to exaggerate its entertainment value, whatever its historical importance. This version of the film has, however, been given an interesting new ambient soundtrack by special theatre production music collective KTL which consists of Stephen O’Malley of US drone metal band SunnO)))) and legendary electronic audio composer Peter Rehberg. (Steve Cramer)

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