After seeing D. W. Griffith's epic Intolerance, Denmark's greatest director, Carl Theodor Dreyer (The Passion of Joan of Arc, Vampyr), was inspired to make his own four-episode historical ... See full summary »
After seeing D. W. Griffith's epic Intolerance, Denmark's greatest director, Carl Theodor Dreyer (The Passion of Joan of Arc, Vampyr), was inspired to make his own four-episode historical epic with each story told end to end, anthology-style, linked by theme to the others. The unifying character, Satan, attempts to win God's favor but is doomed to cheerless participation in dark episodes of human history: the temptation of Jesus, the Spanish Inquisition, the French Revolution and the Russo-Finnish war of 1918. Few directors resisted compromise and convention the way Dreyer did; fortunately, the Nordisk Film Company was artistically progressive by Hollywood standards and agreed that this should be a prestige film made to the highest standards. More than two years in production, Dreyer not only directed but also controlled every facet of this ambitious production. Written by
Music and Lyrics by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
Played in the 2004 alternate version score in the third sequence mostly to accompany the actors singing it silently on-screen See more »
God has set a few rules for Satan. He is to provide over historical events, usually playing one of the bad guys. If things go the way we would expect, he must endure more time in the underworld. If he can find a human willing to sacrifice for good, he will get a thousand years to his credit. Unfortunately, with the Crucifixion, the Inquisition, the French Revolution, and the invasion of the Reds into Finland, there's not much for him to pad his bank account. The stories are so bleak and hopeless. Women and children are not spared, and since we pretty much know what is going to happen, little suspense. It's one of the few cinematic treatments of Marie Antoinette where she comes off as upstanding (no cake here). The upside is, naturally, that there is wonderful film-making going on here with great images and depth. One should see as many of these films as possible in order to get a sense of our film heritage. This one may have taught a lot; Dryer taught a lot.
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