After directing The Virgin Spring (1960) Ingmar Bergman felt something light was in order or so I’ve read. I’ve also read that The Devil’s Eye (Swedish title: Djävulens öga) was a work for hire which was part of a bargain that allowed him to make the previous film. The Devil’s Eye is more a light-hearted treatment of Bergman’s usual themes than a comedy, a genre the director acknowledged he wasn’t adept in. The narrative is broken into acts and a narrator introduces each act to remind the viewer that what follows is comedy. The title refers to an Irish proverb: a woman’s chastity is a sty in the eye of the Devil. Bibi Andersson plays the virginal daughter of a vicar who is about to marry. The Devil sends Don Juan and his servant Pablo, who have been suffering in Hell for 300 years, to Earth for 24 hours in order to seduce her, thus relieving the devil of the sty in his eye and ensuring other women don’t follow her example for, as the Devil’s advisors warn:
“If she marries as she is, the consequences will be disastrous. Heaven will exalt, the archangels will sound their trumpets and will make an infernal din.”
Once Don Juan and Pablo manage to get themselves invited to the vicar’s home the narrative splits into three contests: Don Juan’s attempts to deflower the virtuous daughter, Pablo’s attempt to make love to the vicar’s wife, and the vicar’s battle of wits with a demon who has been sent to keep an eye on Don Juan and Pablo. This third contest is mostly philosophical and at odds with the rest of the material. The subject of religious faith is common to many of Bergman’s films but hardly the stuff of comedy.
In later years Bergman professed to despise this film. It certainly isn’t one of his best but even a minor work by Bergman is worth seeing at least once.
The Devil’s Eye at imdb.com
As of February, 2016 The Devil’s Eye is available on a Region 0 DVD from Amazon.com.