A.V. Club - 11/03/2010
"THE MAGICIAN mixes drama, comedy, suspense, and philosophical inquirty....It's fascinating to watch a younger, less pessimistic Bergman grapple with the question of the supernatural, and whether a well-crafted illusion can be a kind of miracle." -- Grade: A-
Sight and Sound - 01/01/2011
"[T]his odd gothic puzzle might actually be one of the great Swede's most confessional works..."
An elegant follow-up to Bergman's acclaimed WILD STRAWBERRIES, THE MAGICIAN is set in Sweden in the mid-1800s and stars Max von Sydow as the mysterious Albert Vogler, of Vogler's Magnetic Health Theater, a magician and spiritualist who is en route with his troupe--including Vogler's wife, disguised as a young man (Ingrid Thulin); an old crone who peddles herbal remedies and love potions (Naima Wifstrand); and an overbearing manager (Åke Fridell)--to a small town where they are hoping to give a lucrative performance. The group is unexpectedly detained, however, in the home of a prominent citizen, where a skeptical doctor (Gunnar Björnstrand) challenges Vogler to give a demonstration of mesmerism and prove that he does in fact possess supernatural powers.
Although Bergman thought of THE MAGICIAN as a comedy, its more menacing moments are reminiscent of the horror and suspense films of the silent era. Alternately somber and lighthearted, this esoteric treatise on the nature of truth and illusion should appeal to all moviegoers with a taste for cerebral cinematic fare.
Written and directed by acclaimed Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, THE MAGICIAN stars Max von Sydow as Albert Vogler, a traveling magician and spiritualist in 19th-century Sweden. Vogler is forced to give proof of his supernatural powers when he and his companions are detained by a suspicious constable and a sardonic doctor upon entering a town in which they are scheduled to give a performance. Part comedy, part melodrama, and part Gothic thriller, this film is an intriguing character study of a man bearing both the characteristics of a charlatan and a visionary.