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The Devil's Eye
cast: Jarl Kulle, Bibi Andersson, Stig Jarrel, Nils Poppe, and Gertrud Fridh

director: Ingmar Bergman

84 minutes (PG) 1960
widescreen ratio 16:9
Tartan DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
Ingmar Bergman is here in dire jeopardy of bespoiling his position as cinema's principle miserabilist with his 1960 comedy The Devil's Eye (aka: Djävulens öga). It takes as its starter what is reputedly an Irish proverb: "A young woman's chastity is a sty in the devil's eye." When Satan (Stig Jarrel) comes down with said ocular complaint it is concluded that there is a young woman who is simply not showing enough pre-marital sexual eagerness and with someone other than her betrothed. Clearly, it is the age of slappers and one puritanical egg is spoiling the rotten basket. "He's either sat in a draft, which is quite impossible in hell, or something terrible has happened on Earth!" determines the narrator, who blames the Devil's podgy human form in this enactment on 'human evolution', a constant recreation, renewal and rejuvenation of the evil one in their own squat ordinary image. His chief advisers, Count Armand de Rochefoucald (Georg Funkquist) and the Marquis de Maccopazza (Gunnar Sjoberg), are called to him and identify the offending girl insistent on entering her marital bed as a virgin. It wouldn't be right to complete the ceremony un-muddied when "marriage (itself) is the (very) foundation of hell." The Devil considers whom among his damned minions as the best credentials for the mission to woo her. Thankfully, he leaves the rapist and murderer of 1,800 nuns where he is and offers history's greatest seducer Don Juan (Jarl Kulle) a reprieve from his own personal hell, a never ending nightmare of nearly-to-bed beauties, one after the other, on a perpetual loop. His out is to go to the surface and persuade the girl to bed with him.

Three hundred years of girls disappearing as his loins stir has been torture enough and alongside him his equally weary and horny sidekick, Pablo (Sture Lagerwall), they agree to the mission. "I will revel in it as an idiot revels in his entrails," gabbers the gnarly and vulgar Pablo. They are despatched to Earth above, an Uncle Fester identikit demon, tagging along to ensure they don't wander from their chores. The demon stalls the vicar's car and the duo fix it. They are invited to dinner with the family, the vicar (Nils Poppe) a delighted fool, his demure, elegant wife Renata (Gertrud Fridh), stagnating in the couple's asexual autumnal years, and the bright and beautiful daughter Britt-Marie (Bibi Andersson), preparing a home for herself and her future husband Jonas (Axel Duberg). The intended is a staid fellow, handy as a husband, but hardly adventurous. Renata is in surrender. Tackled on the current sedateness of her marriage, she responds with her benign smile: "Sometimes we quarrel... but then he explains my reactions and I calm down."

Renata is innocently introduced to the guests whilst still in her bed, sat up with a good book. Pablo becomes fixated on her, something that is immediately apparent to Renata, who in turn becomes rightly nervous of him. Pablo is on pester-power from hereon in. Don Juan meanwhile, sets to work on the daughter. Things don't run to plan however and, though admitting an attraction to he and many men, she spurns him, and it's in her refusal of others that her overwhelming strength and power lies. Her rebuttals only make Don Juan want her all the more, until he is the one smitten. Meanwhile, the demon, wanting to leave his own imprint on events, cannot resist contact with the stubborn vicar. The stubborn man refuses to believe tales of the farce that's taking place on either side of him and instead, uses the demon's claims to recreate a legend and trap the demon in his cupboard.

The Devil's Eye trips along naughtily and amusingly. Hell is presented in the form of simply dressed sets, evoking a stage production. And, indeed, the film is based on a play, Don Juan vender tillbage by Olaf Bang. Other interiors go little further in their detail. The exterior shots are few briefly taking in country roads and the drive to the vicar's house. The dialogue is lively and the talk often quite rude. "You'll recognise her if her lift her skirt" ... "women live in a storm of moistness. If it's not soaked here, it's gushing out there. They must have gills" ... "you're panting. Your breasts must be freed." Don Juan is advised on the seduction of the Nordic. "It seems a sudden attack is preferable to a long siege." It seems that there is no bottom of the barrel to scrape with Bergman. Metro Tartan may be approaching the last available releasable works but there is still something of great value to be found in the overlooked and the obscure. "There are people who believe God is dead, that he never existed, that heaven is empty and eternity out of reach." I might just as well have filled the page with quotes from the film, let it speak for itself. Magic!

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