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 »
EROTIKON surely pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable on the screen in 1920: Irene, the bored wife of a distracted entomologist, pursues a womanizing aviator, but she may actually be... See full summary »
It's New Year's Eve. Three drunkards evoke a legend. The legend tells that the last person to die in a year, if he is a great sinner, will have to drive during the whole year the Phantom ... See full summary »
A young man is elected by a small village to be its parson. As part of his duties, he is required to marry the widow of the parson before him. This poses two problems--first, the widow is ... See full summary »
One of the first feminist movies, The Smiling Madame Beudet is the story of an intelligent woman trapped in a loveless marriage. Her husband is used to playing a stupid practical joke in ... See full summary »
Robert and Beth Gordon are married but share little. He runs into Sally at a cabaret and the Gordons are soon divorced. Just as he gets bored with Sally's superficiality, Beth strives to ... See full summary »
Cecil B. DeMille
A Cashier in a bank in a small German town is alerted to the power of money by the visit of a rich Italian lady. He embezzles 60, 000 Marks and leaves for the capital city, where he ... 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
This was Dryer's third film and while his second, THE PARSON'S WIDOW, is a finely wrought, wry comedy/drama with many of the trademarks of Dreyer's later visual and dramatic forms already evident, LEAVES FROM SATAN'S BOOK is rather a throw back to the old style of silent film making - emotional posturing rather than subtlety, rare use of close-ups, tableaux composition.
So many of Murnau's early films are like this as well, then suddenly a revelation and in 1924 THE LAST LAUGH revolutionizes film making. Dreyer's style in THE PARSON'S WIDOW and MICHAEL (not to mention his masterpiece, THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC) is singular and identifiable. However, not so in LEAVES. One wonders if he simply lost interest in it and directed it pedantically to get it out of the way.
It's a very long film - two hours and ten minutes in Grapevine Video's DVD release (as opposed to one hour, 50 minutes in original release and the TCM print running nine minutes shorter than Grapevine's - 121 minutes). It is divided into four sections, showing Satan coming to earth to tempt man - and always saddened by man's weak will, for every Satanic success means more years in Hell, while every resistant human soul wins a thousand years credit against Satan's sentence.
Section One involves Judas' betrayal of Christ (27 minutes); Section Two, set during the Spanish Inquisition relates a monk's lust for a young girl (26 minutes); Section Three - the longest at 46 minutes and the most interesting - is set during the French Revolution in 1793; and Section Four was set in Dreyer's contemporary time (1918)and involves Finland and the Russian invasion - 31 minutes.
Section One is a bore since we know the story. Sections Two and Four are mildly interesting, although we can see where they are heading. Quite the best and above all the others is section Three, where the levels of drama and script are multi-layered and where we really cannot predict how it is going to turn out.
For Dreyer fans, since he made so few films (only 9 silent features and 6 talking features, plus many short subjects), this is a must for the collection, but its interest is mainly historical, as it does not contribute significantly to the art of film.
17 of 28 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?