Devil’s Wanton, The

270. THE DEVIL’S WANTON (Fangelse – Prison) (1949-Sweden). Written and directed by INGMAR BERGMAN. When you sit down to watch a Bergman film, you can be confident you’re in the hands Of a master. This early work, his sixth, is no exception. It shows Bergman in full command Of cinematic techniques-from brilliantly lit and composed long shots to luminous close-up portraits Of expressive human faces-and already asking questions that will haunt many Of his later films. Is God dead? Is our existence nothing more than “Hell on Earth?” Is life “a cruel but seductive path between birth and death” Bergman presents such perplexing matters within a cleverly constructed story that interweaves the lives Of a film director, a poet and his wife, a prostitute and her boyfriend-pimp, the pimp’s malevolent sister and others. Although Bergman convincingly depicts a world In which people are adrift, or drowning in a sea Of confusion and despair, the film is almost never depressing, At limes, in fact, it’s humorous,, exhilarating. In an attic retreat, the poet and prostitute share a brief respite, as they view a silent slapstick somedy (Bergman equating the rediscovery Of simple joys with the innocent infancy Of cinema). The girl’s nightmare is a small masterpiece in itself, with its memorable images Of foreboding, wind-swept forests; a mysterious woman Offering an enchanted jewel; a floating music-box clown; and frightening transformations. Replay the dream sequence again and again, and youÕll find something new each time. To the agonizing questions about God and life, Bergman suggests there are no answers. But to the question, ‘can a movie be both philosophically meaningful and entertaining?” This absorbing drama replies with a resounding “Yes!” In Swedish with English subtitles. 78 minutes. Drama