The Phantom Carriage – Victor Sjöström (1921)

A “film for filmmakers”, The Phantom Carriage has strong cultural influence for its fresh style, ambitious narrative and eerie atmosphere. It’s innovations were considered radical at the time which resulted in a very spooked audience.


Check out these reactions from a test screening.

“Oh, snap yo! Death be taking names son!!”

“Oh, snap yo! Death be taking names son!!”

That’s how Swedish adolescents spoke in the 1920’s.

Director Victor Sjöström (pronounced ??) used creative special effects to dream up a nightmarish spiritual world.


He also played the condemned David Holmes.

However, these effects were made special by the weight of an ambitious story.


Based on the novel by Selma Lagerlöf (pronounced ??) this morality-tale aims to bring to light the destructive ills of a dark time.


Primarily alcoholism, and the devastating effect it has on the family unit and the human soul.

Secondarararily, the spread of infectious bacteria. In name, Tuberculosis.

“Germs are not for sharing” - The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare.

Germs are not for sharing.

The Phantom Carriage also held a deep influence among many prolific filmmakers.

In a scene, paid homage to by Stanley Kubrick, a father violently tears down a door standing between himself and his cowering family.


And the trophy mug for axe wielding lunatic goes to….

David Holmes versus Jack Torrance for “Worlds Greatest Dad” mug.

David Holmes versus Jack Torrance. Who would win?

Also concerning influence, fellow countryman Ingmar Bergman credits the The Phantom Carriage as his inspiration for film-making.

We all need a mentor.

We all need mentors – Bergman and Sjöström.

Bergman had seen Phantom at a young age and described the event as a profound moment in his life –

“I was deeply shaken by that film. Not that I understood it or anything. Rather I was struck by its enormous cinematic power. It was an entirely emotional experience.”


Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)

Experiencing something emotionally, rather than understanding it intellectually is an interesting statement.

Why do we tend to overdose on analysis? One reason suggests it’s the safer option, as emotion can’t be confined to a lecture room or neatly defined within a textbook. Emotion can however, be uncomfortable, threatening and plain ol’ ugly at times.

And remember children…


There’s no surprise that it’s so actively suppressed within our culture. It’s unmanly to show grief, unladylike to be seen as promiscuous and inhuman to express anger. All basic emotions, all dangerous enough to get you medicated.

Sorry Pink Floyd but there is no comfort in being numb.

Sorry Pink Floyd fans but there is no comfort in being numb.

Like Terrence McKenna said…


So when art, like a crowbar, tears the roof off the sucker to reveal our animal souls we don’t dare look inside. We attempt to hide behind the wall of our analytical mind…

but their are those who gaze.

Most of us want to experience life at a safe distance. We want to live vicariously through books, music and cinema. When the curtains pull back and the lights go out, the movie theater can be a healing place. An audience is allowed emotional ventilation without judgment.

No doubt the culture needs fresh ways of thinking but until we progress…

I’m thankful for our therapy in the dark.

Victor Sjöström (1879-1960) -  Counselor, Teacher, Filmmaker

Victor Sjöström (1879-1960) –
Counselor, Teacher, Filmmaker.


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