One of the most famous and influential Swedish silent films. It’s a fight to the finish and beyond for a man’s soul.
It’s New Year’s Eve. Sister Edit is dying. She tells her colleague Sister Maria that she must see David Holm. She couldn’t find him but brings his wife back. Edit says she has to get her out of there before David shows up.
That’ll be a while. David is getting drunk with a couple friends in a cemetery. He tells them the story of his friend Georges and the New Year’s Eve curse.
Georges breaks up a fight between two card players. He says the last person to die right before midnight on New Year’s Eve will have to drive Death’s chariot for a year. Georges died that night and he’s the driver. Now he must pick up the souls of sinners.
Holm abuses his wife and eventually lands in jail for being drunk. On the day of his release the prison chaplain takes him to another cell. Inside is Holm’s brother. He’s doing a five year stretch for killing a drunk. He says it’s Holm’s fault for leading him down the wrong path.
When he gets home Holm discovers that his wife has packed up the kids and left. The neighbors laugh at him and he begins a long search for her. On New Year’s Eve a rescue center opens and Holm is their first visitor. Sister Edit sits up all night in a freezing room mending his coat. The next morning he rips out all her work and says he liked it the way it was. She says she’ll pray for him that he has a good year.
Back to the present and Holm is killed when he battles his friends who try to convince him to see Sister Edit. His soul leaves his body as the phantom chariot pulls up. Georges is driving. He reminds him that a year ago he gave Sister Edit his word that he would see her so she could find out how his life turned out.
He drives him to the rescue center. Edit’s life is slipping away and she sees Georges. Her illness is a result of the night she stayed up mending Holm’s coat. He reminds her of a confrontation she had with Holm in a barroom and then her successful efforts to get Holm and his wife back together.
It doesn’t take long for Holm to get back to his evil ways. Once again his wife starts packing up the kids to leave. She locks Holm in the kitchen. He grabs and ax and chops his way out. His wife has fainted.
Edit begs Georges to let her live so she can see Holm again. She blames herself for getting Holm and his wife back together and the trouble it caused. Edit finally sees regret on Holm’s face and dies in peace. Now Georges tells him they have one more stop. This is a classic redemption story.
Director Victor Sjostrom plays David Holm. The movie had a great influence on film maker Ingmar Bergman.