Doll, The (1962)
“A Greek gentleman of magical persuasion once wanted a woman who would satisfy his every desire, and so obsessed with the unfound object of his dreams was he, that he went about constructing such a wonderful creature. His work completed, he fell so convincingly and irrevocably in love with the woman he had created that she was no longer stone, but mortal flesh, and alive and warm; and so the magus, Pygmalion, received the greatest of magical benedictions, and the beautiful Galatea was his.”
– The Satanic Bible, pg. 125-126
The 1962 Swedish film, The Doll, tackles the idea of Artificial Human Companions, and the movie handles this idea with care and an impactful sense of sad calmness. Far from being a picture that bashes on the concept of falling in love with a synthetic person, The Doll adopts the thought process of, in its own way, celebrating it — in a melancholic kind of way.
While films like Her (2013) and Lars and the Real Girl (2007) have discussed Artificial Human Companions, the magic of The Doll feels closer to the idea of an AHC that LaVey espoused. The mannequin in this film would be right at home in LaVey’s ‘Den of Iniquity‘ at the Black House.
From the start, Lundgren (played adroitly by Per Oscarsson) lets the viewer in on just how alone he feels in the world. He is a nervous and depressed man who feels like everyone in the world has someone to love but himself. Lundgren works as a night watchman at a department store and comes across a mannequin whom the man instantly feels an attraction towards. Through a proverbial sleight-of-hand, he smuggles her back to his tiny apartment and builds a real bond with it.
Other media (especially in the modern era) would deride Lundgren. He would be considered a freak, a loser, or some kind of creep and predator who can’t find a real woman. Anyone aware of the burgeoning market for love dolls and other synthetic companions could probably confirm the derision that owners of such dolls receive. But this film approaches Lundgren with an air of compassion and presents him as a kind-hearted individual.
One scene which shows that his feelings for the doll are more than just on a sexual level is when he brings her home for the first time. Lundgren puts her on his bed and covers her very nakedness. He asks for her ‘permission’ — if it is within his bounds — that he touches her to tuck her in. Instead of crawling into bed with lewd intentions, he falls asleep in an adjacent chair to watch over her. Such a gentleman!
He is overjoyed when, one day, he discovers that she has come to life. The film does posit that this occurrence is all in his head. But to Lundgren, his desire was so great that his ‘Greater Magic’ ritual to find love was successful. He loves his doll, and she loves him.
The Doll delves into the themes it presents and takes it a step further. When his secret is discovered that he is in love with a mannequin, a lot of the tenants at his boarding house are surprisingly understanding. Admittedly, there are one or two characters who browbeat his seemingly crazy behavior. Others feel more sympathetic and opine that he is harming no one. A surprisingly forward-thinking idea, especially for a film made in the 1960s.
Calm, relatable, and filled with poignancy, The Doll is a refreshing love story.
[- D.A. Marshall]
Movie on IMDB