This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
Ingmar Bergman's "Hour of the Wolf" is the sort of highly personal film that needs to find its own audience; the average cross section of moviegoers won't like it, I suspect. It's a difficult film, and not altogether a successful one. Bergman requires a creative act of imagination from his audience, the same sort of suspension of disbelief that Disney asks the kids to make for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." But the adults in the audience I observed didn't seem up to the effort. They snickered and whispered and made boors of themselves.
For his theme, Bergman has borrowed from the materials of Gothic legend. His hero is an artist (Max von Sydow), alienated from society, who lives on an island with his pregnant wife (Liv Ullmann). On the other side of the island there is a castle inhabited by a baron and a menagerie of perverted friends. At night, the artist is haunted by insomnia, paranoia and strange dreams.
A great deal of the action takes place halfway between midnight and dawn -- the hour, Scott Fitzgerald said, which is the dark night of the soul. In a brief note, Bergman calls this the "Hour of the Wolf," and explains: "It is the hour when most people die, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are more real. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts and demons are most powerful. The Hour of the Wolf is also the hour when most children are born."
The artist is apparently going mad. He sits up night after night, staring into his candle, speaking with his wife of his strange dreams (or are they memories?). Bergman penetrates the man's subconscious to extract a series of bizarre nightmares and imaginations. He slips these hallucinations back and forth across the line of reality, so that occasionally what seems to be a dream becomes gruesomely real. This is the case with the most powerful image in the film, an act of necrophilia that becomes a practical joke.