Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Hour of the Wolf - Guilty Conscience

Although we haven’t seen the entirety of The Hour of the Wolf, I have a few theories about Johan and Alma’s supernatural experience. In the beginning of the film, Alma is interviewed about the strange death of her husband. During this interview she says that she and Johan were looking forward to a peaceful summer on the island without any other people around. This leads me to believe that the aristocrats in the castle and the little boy on the rocks are not, in fact, real people but are visions seen only by Johan. These specters seem to represent events from Johan’s past that cause him an immense amount of guilt and anxiety. Each vision seems to remind Johan of a specific part of his psyche that he has repressed and not shared with Alma. For example Veronica represents his part in an adulterous affair and the little boy seems to embody his homosexual pedophilic desires.

What then brings about these horrific visions? I believe that Alma’s pregnancy has led Johan to question his existence; his past, present and future. Perhaps his own guilt and regret have led him to question his decision to marry and procreate. Whatever it was that brought about Johan’s unrest, his drinking, sleeplessness and sickness all contribute to his eventual lapse into total insanity. The movie, which is based upon Johan’s diary entries, is then not a real account of the summer but rather a representation of his own crazed delusions.


  1. I agree completely with your first point--that Johan is having flashbacks of guilt represented through the characters presented in the film. To me, it seems that the body of the film (the many events with the others on the island) shows many different facets of Johan's conscience--from past sexual affairs to suppressed homosexual desires.
    What causes these guilty conscience flashbacks, however, I’m not completely sure. You suggest that Alma’s pregnancy may have caused Johan to question his identity, thus releasing his underlying desires. However, I believe that Johan wasn’t questioning his identity, but realizing it through the strange events in the film. From the beginning, I perceived Johan as a very disturbed character, a fact that becomes more evident throughout the film.
    Whatever the reason for Johan’s actions—whether an identity crisis or just inherent identity recognition—Johan and Alma’s summer is most certainly a peculiar sequence of events.

  2. I agree as well that the past events of adultery, and other sexual experiences manifests itself in Johans breakdown of his perception of reality and that the audience sees. His deep seeded feelings are portrayed in how he remembers past experiences and it is possibly manifested in his artistic work as well which as far as I recall, we never get a chance to see. Earlier in the movie, I recall Alma's reaction to one of his works as just complete shock. For someone who is the wife of an artist to be shocked by one of his works it must be relatively disturbing. It is possible the summer in isolation with just his pregnant wife, whom he has betrayed through adulterous situation, caused so much angst in them that he enters disturbed state of reality.

  3. (Warning: spoiler alert. I finished the film early since I missed class Thursday.)

    I definitely agree with you that the people Johan encounters on the island are figments of his imagination and it’s interesting that you tried to pinpoint the cause of these horrific nightmares, but I think Alma sees them as well, at least when she is with Johan. When he tells Alma of his encounter with the boy near the rocks, in which he ultimately smashed the child’s face against a stone and threw him into the ocean, Alma is horrified and shocked. In this instance, Johan experienced his vision alone. However, when Johan and Alma visit the castle, it seems as if they experience his visions together. As Johan is being seduced by his ex-girlfriend, Veronica, and prepared for a sexual encounter with her by the men at the party, Veronica hands Alma her husband’s diary and tells her “I have bought myself a sizeable stake in your husband” while taunting her with bruises in inconspicuous locations claiming they’re spots of enthusiasm. We can’t be totally sure if she’s experiencing these visions at the same time as Johan, however, until the final moments of the film. It’s at this time that she questions how much loving Johan and living with him for so long could affect her. She admits that because she loves him, she tried to think like him but wonders if she could have protected him if she had loved him less and his demons not spread to her. These notions of one person’s fears being able to translate to another and being less equipped to protect the ones you love, I think, are the most intriguing parts of the film.