In THE MAGICIAN, Ingmar Bergman takes two favorite motifs--masks and magic--and explores them on a number of different levels. Albert Emanuel Vogler (Max von Sydow), a 19-century magician, brings a troupe of traveling illusionists to a small Swedish town where the people don't believe in

magic. Led by Vogler, the troupe proceeds to play with the townspeople's minds, and director Bergman, in turn, makes imaginative use of editing, lighting, and special effects to toy with audience expectations. Things are never quite what they seem, either narratively or cinematically. The film's

mysterious nature is further enhanced by the dark, rich, gothic look of Bergman's mise-en-scene. Though at times the story is overwhelmed by its theme and symbols (especially in its final third), THE MAGICIAN is still fascinating, presenting a myriad of challenging ideas about magic, reality, and

the nature of film itself. The acting, as in typical in Bergman, is exceptionally good, with Bjornstrand a standout. The videocassette is available in both dubbed and subtitled (Swedish into English) versions.