Victor Sjöström’s Stirring Flashbacks

Nearly a century after its initial release, Victor Sjöström’s silent-era ghost story The Phantom Carriage continues to haunt audiences and challenge them with its innovative storytelling techniques. Unfolding in an intricate, nonlinear structure, this landmark of Swedish cinema centers on a repellent alcoholic (played by Sjöström) forced to come to grips with his life after Death knocks on his door. In the latest episode of Observations on Film Art, an original series now streaming on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck, film scholar Kristin Thompson examines Sjöström’s use of flashbacks and how they inform the narrative and enrich its themes of redemption. The excerpt above features Thompson reflecting on her first encounter with the film in graduate school and introducing its four key flashbacks.

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