Mikaël is an artist who rises as his teacher, the aging Zoret, falls. Zoret gives Mikaël his start, and their relationship is sexual as well. Then Mikaël takes up with the Princess Zamikoff, selling gifts from Zoret and even stealing from the master to pay for his carnal and luxurious life with her. He abandons Zoret, whose health begins to fail but who also discovers spirituality in his solitude. In a subplot, Alice Adelsskjold cuckolds her husband and takes a lover, the Duke of Monthieu; their relationship, infused with the eroticism of art, also gives way to religion as the duke becomes ill. Written by
Early tackling of homosexuality and a surprisingly rich film from the master of the bleak
Famous painter Claude Zoret (Benjamin Christensen) is in love with friend, muse, and model Michael (Walter Slezak). They live comfortably and happily in their mansion, which is littered with Zoret's pieces with Michael as their inspiration. When the bankrupt Countess Lucia Zamikoff (Nora Gregor) comes to visit to ask Zoret to paint her, Zoret accepts but struggles to put any life into his painting. He can't depict her eyes, but Michael steps in and completes the painting. Sensing his infatuation with her, the Countess seduces Michael, and Zoret witnesses his relationship become more and more distant. Michael steals and sells Zoret's sketches and paintings in order to satisfy the Countess' spending habits, and Zoret eventually falls ill.
Although it's hardly tackled explicitly, and more suggested in looks, exchanges, and title-cards than sexual imagery, Michael's tackling of homosexuality was quite revolutionary in its day. Naturally, it failed financially and critically (although when Dreyer made The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) and became auteur, it has since been re-visited and praised), but it should be a film that any cinephile should see, especially those with an interest in the origins of Queer Cinema and the depiction of homosexuality in film. Benjamin Christensen, perhaps best known as director of the silent docu-horror masterpiece Haxan (1922), is masterful as Zoret, his face darkened with sadness, subtle jealousy, and tragic sentiment. Slazek and Gregor fair less well, and suffer in comparison to Christensen's depiction.
Although the climax is predictable, it has a feeling of inevitably which makes it fittingly moving and quite beautiful, similar in many ways to the ending of Dreyer's Ordet (1955). But the film is surprisingly rich and luscious, with Dreyer's usual blank canvas and bleak settings replaced by detailed sets, all captured by cinematographer's Rudolph Mate and Karl Freund (who appears here as art dealer Le Blanc, and would go on to work on some Universal's finest horror output in the 1930's). A wonderful, 'minor' work in Dreyer's wealthy filmography.
0 of 0 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?