Written by: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Jarl Kulle, Bibi Andersson, Stig Järrel
Religion has led us to believe in the grand importance of the most minute details of life. As a form of control, every action someone takes faces scrutiny from a God supposedly unconditionally loving each person on Earth. With as much comedic ferocity as one can expect, Ingmar Bergman delivers a satirical look at the battle for a woman’s virginity in The Devil’s Eye. A blisteringly smart comedy with plenty of unintentional winks to the camera.
Satan (Stig Järrel) does not suffer pain often except for the random occasion where he gets a stye on his eye. In this instance, it’s happening because a particular woman, Britt-Marie (Bibi Andersson) lives as a 20-year-old virgin and will soon marry. Appalled by this pious behavior and her potential to influence other women, Satan sends Don Juan (Jarl Kulle), an infamous seducer to take away her virginity and get a win over God.
Even if I should not be surprised, watching an Ingmar Bergman comedy always brings a level of delectable delight, purely because of the amount of fun he injects into these stories. Having grown up in a religious family, the ideas of doctrine and belief found its way into many of his features. His attempt of The Devil’s Eye feels like his most tongue in cheek approach because of his knowledge about the abrud sanctity of a woman’s virginity. Anyone raised in a strict religious sect knows any individual having sex out of marriage, also known as fornication, commits incredible evil when doing so. Apparently, the act exudes so much evil, the devil enjoys it so, which leads to Britt-Marie, who has been a devout Christian her entire life. As the daughter of a vicar, she has followed the teachings of her church and has remained a virgin leading up to her wedding day, which peeves Satan dramatically. This amount of purity cannot stand, which forces him to get the services of one of his subjects, Don Juan.
This infamous seducer has been sentenced to hell and his punishment becomes a constant cycle of a woman appearing to him wishing to kill him, he seduces her, and then she disappears once they get close to having sex. Complete torture for this man, which makes the offer by Satan to go topside and seduce one last woman for eternal rest a great gateway. Once Don Juan and his sidekick, Pablo (Sture Lagerwall) arrive at Britt-Marie’s home, the comedy continues to hit every note perfectly.
The comments Bergman makes throughout the scenes where Don Juan gets invited to stay as a guest at the vicar’s house are so much fun. From the clueless vicar, who believes nothing bad will occur by inviting a suspicious-looking man to stay under the same roof as him and his daughter, along with all of the subsequent events proving Don Juan is up to no good. The magic, however, occurs when Don Juan and Britt-Marie lock eyes, and her pious approach makes it difficult for the seducer to crack but something more fiendish occurs, he begins to fall in love with her. Who would have thought? A master seducer actually falling in love with someone who happens to be a holdout of following the religious doctrines taught by the church. The ultimate foil for Don Juan and their contrast makes for some truly hilarious moments.
Absurdity at its finest defines the resounding success this film managed to achieve, seeing as under less capable hands, this story could have felt hackneyed, but when Bergman’s at the wheel any fear of this should have immediately vanished. His balance of many incredibly dark and contemplative dramas and these absurdly funny comedies demonstrates why he’s one of my favorite directors ever. He shows admiration for his faith along with the ability to sit back and tease it at times, especially with this story. It becomes about corrupting the incorruptible, but also addressing the idea of whether or not a woman’s virginity should actually matter in the grand scheme of the battle between God and Satan. The idea it becomes something so integral where Satan offers someone he finds glee in punishing eternal respite really does sum up how silly we all are for being obsessed with someone’s personal sex life.
Brief, plenty of fun, and a piercing message to boot, The Devil’s Eye finds Ingmar Bergman at his most cheeky. Within a treasure trove of comedies, this one stands out as one that really knocked me off my feet with how he plays with his own faith. A fantastical story where we have Satan and demons trying to interfere in one individual’s life with a resounding message of taking the small victories life has to offer. A sublime picture I would recommend to anyone wanting a good laugh.