Max von Sydow, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bibi Andersson,
A carriage bumps along a wooded path. Inside is a magician, Vogler (Max von Sydow), and his entourage, including his young assistant who in his better moments is a she, the magician’s wife (Ingrid Thulin); and an ancient auntie who has a sideline in love potions and, we suspect, eye of newt. They are a down-at-the-heels lot, curious about the devil out in the woods and about death, which joins them in their carriage. They are headed for a politically fraught performance, for the mute Vogler is mocked, as he is sought, for his “animal magnetism.” And no one does animal magnetism better than von Sydow. We see hints of Persona (silence as the last refuge of the artist), Fanny and Alexander (family theatrics as its own refuge), and Scenes from a Marriage (in fact, two). But with its fairytale landscape, Expressionist sets, and old-dark-lab sci-fi, The Magician asks to be taken on its own terms. Max the mesmerist and Bergman the magician, each with his “apparatus,” effect the willing suspension of belief.