How do we understand faith and prayer, and what of miracles? August 1925 on a Danish farm. Patriarch Borgen has three sons: Mikkel, a good-hearted agnostic whose wife Inger is pregnant, ... See full summary »
Carl Theodor Dreyer
Emil Hass Christensen,
Preben Lerdorff Rye
Claire Lescot is a famous prima donna. All men want to be loved by her. Among them is the young scientist Einar Norsen. When she mocks at him, he leaves her house with the declared ... See full summary »
Léonid Walter de Malte,
The Mothers' Aid is a state-funded institution with branches all over Denmark. Erna, a young pregnant woman, has asked a doctor to carry out an abortion, but instead he advised her to go to... See full summary »
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
Of the Carl Theodor Dreyer motion pictures that I have recently seen, the more mature and the one that shows a better knowledge of the film medium, is "Michael" a production financed and shot in Germany, after he made "Love One Another". The obvious mistakes are more related to editing than to "mise en caméra", and even that is not abundant. Dreyer stylishly uses space, light, and the depth and height of the decors, abstaining from the Expressionist frenzy that characterized a good part of German cinema after "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920). Based on the novel "Mikaël", by Herman Bang, this is one of the most impressive studies of narcissism among the films that I have seen, and one of the most moving dramas on homosexuality in old age that I know. I find admirable is that a film from 1924 shows an understanding of human nature similar to a drama as "Happy Together", rather than recent bursts of sweat and semen that have pretended to explain narcissistic delight and homosexual love in epidermic, explicit ways. We should also remember that this is a motion picture from 1924 if it may illustrate ideas that today may seem as prejudice, or whenever we react negatively to the resources of 1920s cinema, in make-up, costumes, acting style, or technical shortcomings yet to be perfected to erase the efforts to convey an impression of reality. Less problematic, I believe, are the direction and especially the writing. Behind the adaptation there is a key name in the history of cinema: Fritz Lang's ex-wife, Thea Von Harbou, who remained in Germany when her husband fled from the Nazis. By 1924 Harbou and Lang had already collaborated in "The Weary Death" and the first two parts of "Dr. Mabuse", and next would come "Spies", "Die Nibelungen", "Metropolis", "Woman in the Moon", "M", "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse" and the diptych "The Tiger of Eschnapur" and "The Indian Tomb". Harbou excelled in adventures, science-fiction and exotic melodramas (genres almost absent in Lang's American filmography), but here she is more than adequate describing a homosexual liaison tinted with economic interest, loneliness and a narcissistic game of mirrors, in the story of a painter and the young male model to whom he gives all his possessions, which are then spent by the boy in an affair with a ruined and unscrupulous princess. The theme of Death is present throughout the tale, and it is duplicated in the story of an affair between a count and a young woman, married to an old man. Besides Von Harbou, "Michael" includes first-rate personnel in other roles: the cinematographer is Expressionist maestro Karl Freund (director of photography of "The Last Man", "Metropolis", "Berlin, Symphony of a Great City" and Tod Browning's "Dracula"), who also plays a art dealer; the painter is played by Danish director Benjamin Christensen (the maker of "The Witch"), and the Italian operatic diva Nora Gregor (leading lady in Renoir's "The Rule of the Game") plays the princess. For the role of Michael, Dreyer used beautiful blond actor Walter Slezak, born under the sign of Taurus, and --as a good son of the bull-- too much attracted to good food and wine. When he reached 30 he had already lost his slenderness and in spite of his big, expressive blue eyes, for the industry he was too a chubby fellow to be a leading man. However, when he migrated to the United States he became an instant sensation in Broadway, winning a Tony award. In films he had a more discrete participation, but he also had other unforgettable roles, as the Nazi sailor in Alfred Hichcock's propaganda drama "Lifeboat", and as Rock Hudson's feisty majordomo in "Come September", turning his boss' Italian villa into a hotel during his absence, except every September. A good work of restoration, "Michael" includes a dense 1993 score by Pierre Oser.
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