The Phantom Carriage (1921) - Körkarlen
The Phantom Carriage (Swedish: Körkarlen, literally “The Wagoner”) is a 1921 Swedish silent film directed by and starring Victor Sjöström, based on the 1912 novel Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness! (Körkarlen) by Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf. In the film, Sjöström plays a drunkard named David Holm who, on the night of New Year’s Eve, is compelled by the ghostly driver of Death’s carriage to reflect on his past mistakes. Alongside Sjöström, the film’s cast includes Hilda Borgström, Tore Svennberg, and Astrid Holm.
The Phantom Carriage was released in Scandinavia on New Year’s Day 1921. The following year, Metro Pictures Corporation re-edited and released the film in the United States under the title The Stroke of Midnight; it was known as Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness! in the United Kingdom.
The Phantom Carriage is notable for its special effects, its innovative narrative structure with flashbacks within flashbacks, and for having been a major influence on the works of Ingmar Bergman. It has been characterized as belonging to several genres—it has been called a morality tale, a melodrama, a fantasy film, and a horror film. It is sometimes considered one of the first horror films due to its atmosphere and its impact on later entries in the genre. The film is generally considered to be one of the central works in the history of Swedish cinema.
On New Year’s Eve, the driver of a ghostly carriage forces a drunken man to reflect on his selfish, wasted life.
Victor Sjöström as David Holm
Hilda Borgström as Anna Holm
Tore Svennberg as Georges
Astrid Holm as Edit
Concordia Selander as Edit’s Mother
Lisa Lundholm as Maria
Einar Axelsson (in credits as Einar Axelson) as David’s Brother
Nils Aréhn as Prison Chaplain
Olof Ås as The First Driver
Tor Weijden as Gustafsson
Simon Lindstrand as David’s Companion
Nils Elffors as David’s Companion
John Ekman as Police Constable
Original release date:
1 January 1921 (Sweden)
1 February 1922 (United States)