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
A historical view of witchcraft in seven parts and a variety of styles. First, there is a slide-show alternating inter-titles with drawings and paintings to illustrate the behavior of pagan... 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 »
The judge in a Danish town sees his illegitimate daughter facing a trial for the murder of her newborn child, and is rather sure that she will be sentenced to death. She became pregnant ... See full summary »
Carl Theodor Dreyer
Young traveller Allan Grey arrives in a remote castle and starts seeing weird, inexplicable sights (a man whose shadow has a life of its own, a mysterious scythe-bearing figure tolling a bell, a terrifying dream of his own burial). Things come to a head when one of the daughters of the lord of the castle succumbs to anaemia - or is it something more sinister? Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
Not your usual romp with the un-dead, but for a particular brand of movie-geek, there are some extraordinary things going for it
Carl Theodor Dreyer will always be a household name among directors for me after viewing his Passion of Joan of Arc, one of the most emotionally wrenching, stylistically groundbreaking, and thoughtful of religious treatises. There not only did he reveal the eye of a cinematic genius, but he also had Renee Falconetti, one of only several people to truly pull off a performance by using the eyes to talk more than the voice. So, I read up on Dreyer and found that he also directed several sound films after the tragedy that was the butchering and loss of Joan of Arc. One of them was this film, a piece of experimental horror/mystery dealing with the supernatural, the occult, the damned- Vampires.
The story at times becomes a little too hard to follow, even beside the point that the film is meant to be surreal or nightmarish or what-have-you. What I did make out of it was that a man named Allan Gray (Julian West) somehow gets lured by his own curiosity comes upon a chateau where an old man (Maurice Schultz, one of the finest hair/face-styling jobs I've seen in an old-style horror movie) and his two daughters reside. Inter-cutting between excerpts of a book detailing the ABC's of vampire facts, bizarre and sad occurrences go on in the chateau, both to Alan and one of the daughters.
I suppose saying that the film at times veers off into haunting imagery is almost a compliment, but for some audiences this could be a turn off. On top of the fact that the film contains fewer lines than in any other vampire film I can think of, the whole tone and look of the film is, not to put a snob touch on it, unique. This would not likely be the kind of film to hang out with adolescent friends and drink beers to (that kind of film in the genre would be From Dusk Till Dawn). The one minor flaw in the film as well is, unlike Joan of Arc, the performances are less than brilliant, outside of the girl in the bed and at times West (Schultz, while believable in the look of the character, is a little too 'shocked' in most scenes).
But what the film has going for it are two main elements- Dreyer and Joan of Arc cinematographer Rudolph Mate. Despite the film, when being viewed today on video and DVD, having a low-quality transfer with specks and scratches and all, nearly every image and camera move is perfect. For this kind of film, Dreyer takes an approach that lends the story and characters to another plane- these are people caught in the grip of a force that only has one purpose, to kill in a controlled state. Certain scenes are like terrifying little masterpieces of gothic torture- the droplets of blood falling onto the ground from the bed; the coffin point of view of the world; the close-ups; the way Dreyer moves around the chateau and outside; the creepy, somehow appropriate over/under exposure of shots. Overall, this is definitely a horror film with a an artist that doesn't sell himself short of the goods in his arsenal.
Vampyr is recommendable, if for nothing else (however the story seems like it would be easier to figure out on a repeat viewing, it would lessen the effect it leaves the first time), for the sheer vision. Although it has dated, Dreyer's take on the myths and terror of a group of citizens held in the grip of a vampire's grip is a technical landmark, and one of the early essentials alongside Nosferatu and Dracula. The dreadful score by Zeller is a good touch as well. A
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