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Day of Wrath (1943)
"Vredens dag" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  24 April 1948 (USA)
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 5,392 users  
Reviews: 37 user | 60 critic

The young wife of an aging priest falls in love with his son amidst the horror of a merciless witch hunt in 17th century Denmark.

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Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
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Cast

Uncredited cast:
Kirsten Andreasen ...
(uncredited)
Sigurd Berg ...
(uncredited)
Harald Holst ...
(uncredited)
...
The Bishop (uncredited)
Emanuel Jørgensen ...
(uncredited)
Sophie Knudsen ...
(uncredited)
Preben Lerdorff Rye ...
Martin (Absalon's son from first marriage) (uncredited)
Lisbeth Movin ...
Anne Pedersdotter (Absalon's second wife) (uncredited)
Preben Neergaard ...
Degn (uncredited)
Sigrid Neiiendam ...
Merete (Absalon's mother) (uncredited)
Emilie Nielsen ...
(uncredited)
Thorkild Roose ...
Rev. Absalon Pederssøn (uncredited)
Anna Svierkier ...
Herlofs Marte (uncredited)
Hans Christian Sørensen ...
(uncredited)
Olaf Ussing ...
Laurentius (uncredited)
Edit

Storyline

In a 17th-century Danish village, an old woman is accused of witchcraft. In the shadow of her flight, capture, confession, and burning at the stake, the young wife of the town's aging pastor falls in love with the pastor's son. Her confession of this illicit affair to her husband brings on her husband's death. At the funeral the pastor's mother denounces the young widow as a witch. Will the widow's lover come to her defense, or has the day of wrath returned? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

24 April 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Day of Wrath  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Though the film is outwardly a chronicle of a religious witch-hunt, it contained many subtler comparisons to the behavior of the Nazis (torture and questioning) and Carl Theodor Dreyer fled Denmark for Sweden where he remained until the war was over. See more »

Goofs

When Absalon converses with Laurentius on his death bed, a microphone is visible at the top of the frame. See more »

Quotes

Rev. Absalon Pederssøn: There is nothing so quiet as a heart that has ceased to beat.
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User Reviews

 
One of Dreyer's (sound) masterpieces
19 January 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Carl Theodor Dreyer, as I can figure from seeing just a few of his films, is consistently the director to get me feeling extremely emotional. This one, Day of Wrath, and especially his quintessential The Passion of Joan of Arc, somehow got me to the point of tears. Not to the point of stopping the film(s) to sob, but in feeling such a strong, endearing connection to the characters (through the actor(s) playing them) through the doomed feeling over the films that got to me. Films dealing with questions of faith and religion have fascinated me for a while from the likes of Bergman, Bunuel and even Scorsese, but Dreyer taps particularly well into the plights of those to be sacrificed in the name of 'the Lord'. At times I tried to put aside my own feelings about God and religion and the like, yet it kept on sort of dragging in along with it. By getting right up into the stink-pit of hypocrisy and sheer, un-wielding judgment that religion casts upon people (in the two main cases I've seen from him women), it speaks past the realm of a religious fable and goes into the realm of the universal. Day of Wrath is as much a story of witch-hunting as it is of the doom of the outsider, of what a soul who is circumspect in centuries before would be put down as if on complete call from high. Conscience from within, who knows.

Dreyer centers his story circa 17th century Denmark around Bishop Absalom (Alber Hoeberg, in a mostly haunted performance), his mother, his son Martin, and his recent wife Anne (Lisbeth Movin, not quite the face of Falconetti, but still stands powerful on its own). The Bishop deals with questions of faith, but more-so his own feelings of possible death and dread, following the catching and sacrificing of Herlofs Marte (Anna Svierkier). There is an affair between son and wife, which leads to another incredible turning point, not the least without the suspicious, un-bending old mother. Dreyer deals with the story of this family very simply and delicately, yet with a certain razor's edge that you know may be coming around the bend. Like in the times he filmed this, circa Nazi-Germany dominated world war 2, it's hardly the safest, especially to those who don't conform to certain ways. And then it all leads back to God, and love, or lack thereof.

Dreyer strikes very early on with the emotional powerhouse moments. Svierkier was the perfect choice to play the part of Herlofs Marte. Such humanity comes through her performance, as an old woman who says outright that she's not a witch ("I don't fear Heaven or Hell, I fear only Death"), is given the brush-off by the Bishop despite her pleas. Like with 'Passion', Dreyer ends up getting far more of a moving scene involving the torture of another person just by the mere suggestion of it, a hint even. He does it with audio this time, as opposed to a montage of images, and it's just as effective (a camera pans across a room of the Church's watchers, so to speak). While it's arguable if the scenes involving her are the most arresting emotionally- the plight of the everyday folk- the latter scenes bringing to a head the tragedy of Absalom, Martin, and Anne, doesn't lose its strength either.

This is kept up by Dreyer almost in spite of itself. He and his cameraman Karl Andersson keep a deliberate pacing in the film, a kind of aesthetic in tune likely with his silent-film days. It's a story not rushed at all, and gives some of the most beautiful shots in any of his films; the scenes of Martin and Anne by the riverside, in complete silhouette; the constant usage of medium shots still capturing the full outreach of the performers; the precious close-ups bringing forth his precise, masterful use of light and dark. The more I thought about this style, the more I appreciated it afterward, even when considering it was different than 'Passion' or 'Vampyr'. It lets the scenes sink in for the viewer, to the point of going along on this dark, fateful journey. And it also got me thinking- as I thought with Bergan's films till I saw interviews- about Dreyer and his own relationship to religion in regards to his films. The questioning is never out there in your face; it's in-between the lines of what is spoken between sinner and judger, and what it ends up feeding into society. Absalom may not be a bad man, but as a soul with his life into judging others, ones that might love him stray away.

It leaves me with questions that leave bitter, difficult and long answers, which is really what the best filmmakers tend to do for me sometimes, though at the same time always keeping the dramatic &/or just theatrical aspects of the film in enough control to really hit home. Superb work.


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