Carl Theodor Dreyer

Carl Theodor Dreyer – Thorvaldsen (1949)

This very short film offers a brief consideration of the major works of Bertel Thorvaldsen (ca. 1770-1884), one of the most famous of all Danish artists and arguably the greatest sculptor between Bernini and Rodin. Resting squarely within the Neoclassical tradition, Thorvaldsen’s great talent was his ability to perfectly balance his sculptures, giving them a sense of weightlessness. (Of course, the sculptures are also extremely beautiful, but in our post-WWII era there’s something disquieting about admiring a northern European artist’s conception of ideal physical beauty. I suppose that’s unavoidable, but Thorvaldsen’s reputation has happily escaped associations with Nazi ideology.) Read More »

Carl Theodor Dreyer – Kampen mod kræften AKA The Struggle Against Cancer (1947)

A government funded documentary warning those about the danger of cancer. Read More »

Carl Theodor Dreyer – Vampyr (1932)

With Vampyr, Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer channeled his genius for creating mesmerizing atmosphere and austere, unsettling imagery into the horror genre. The result—a chilling film about a student of the occult who encounters supernatural haunts and local evildoers in a village outside of Paris—is nearly unclassifiable. A host of stunning camera and editing tricks and densely layered sounds create a mood of dreamlike terror. With its roiling fogs, ominous scythes, and foreboding echoes, Vampyr is one of cinema’s great nightmares. Read More »

Carl Theodor Dreyer – Glomdalsbruden (1926)

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Birgit Granhøj, CarlThDreyer.dk wrote:

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Tore takes over the rundown family farm. Applying his youthful energy, he intends to make it into a big farm like Glomgården on the other side of the river, where beautiful Berit loves. Tore falls in love with her, but her father has promised her to rich Gjermund. As her wedding to Gjermund draws near, Berit runs away and seeks refuge with Tore and his parents. She soon falls deathly ill but recovers, asking for, and getting, her father’s permission to marry Tore. Jealous Gjermund is determined to prevent their wedding, however, in a dramatic climactic scene playing out around the rushing river. Read More »

Carl Theodor Dreyer – Du skal ære din hustru AKA Master of the House (1925)

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Victor Frandsen is a domestic tyrant. His wife Ida has to work as a slave for him and the rest of the family. She rises early to prepare everything for the day, she toils all day long, and she is often up also in the night, doing some sewing to earn extra money for the household. In daytime she is supported by an old woman called Mads, who was Victors’ nanny when he was a child. Mads is filled with loathing for Victor’s behavior towards his wife, and calls him a brute. She understands that Ida is on the verge of a serious breakdown, and persuades Ida’s mother, Mrs. Kryer, to take Ida away. Mads will herself take care of the household and the children for a time. When Victor comes home and finds out that Ida is gone, he gets angry. He asks his daughter, Karen, where her mother is, but she refuses to tell him. She only says that her mother is very ill, and that it will be his fault if she dies. The accusation strikes Victor in his heart, and he sits down, feeling dejected. Read More »

Carl Theodor Dreyer – Ordet (1955)

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Although The Word deals with a miracle, it is through and through a realistic film—about those who are weak in faith. The hoped-for miracle does not occur until one who has faith, the True Faith, arrives. The action takes place among country folk living in a small, outlying parish on Jutland’s west coast. It pictures the struggle between two different sides of Christian faith—a bright, happy Christianity and its contrast, a dark fanaticism, hostile to life. Read More »

Carl Theodor Dreyer – Præsidenten AKA The President (1919)

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It perhaps comes as no surprise, given Carl Theodor Dreyer’s lifelong, idealized melancholy over his own unresolved parentage, that the scenario selected for his first film, The President would involve three generations of children conceived out of wedlock, and thematically crystallize on the legacy of their unreconciled paternity in the resolution of their own disparate lives. For Dreyer, this expurgation of such deep-seated trauma was not only manifested in the naïve idea of restoring the virtue and honor of a “fallen” woman (an archetypal surrogate for his own idealized, unwed, biological mother) through transcendence, but also in confronting the innate cruelty of the very institutions that socially (and inequitably) stigmatized such human transgressions through codified notions of morality and class division. It is within this framework that the film’s preface of the aging aristocrat, Franz Victor von Sendlinger (Elith Pio) offering a promissory relationship advice to his son Karl Victor (Halvard Hoff) on the folly of marrying outside (or more specifically, beneath) one’s social class while walking along the grounds of their forbiddingly isolated, dilapidated estate seems especially conducive to the figurative idea of empty, superficial, crumbling institutions and Dreyer’s own symbolic attempts to dismantle them. Read More »