Day of Wrath (1943) Poster

(1943)

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10/10
In Majorem Gloriam Dei
dbdumonteil28 June 2006
Dreyer's pictures are absolutely mind-boggling .We seem to be in a Rembrandt's or Georges de la Tour's painting.He works with his camera the way a painter does with light to create different textures ,highlights and shadows.The scenes inside the minister's house where the world is still the prey of the good/evil concept are in direct contrast to those ,luminous and pastoral,where the lovers try to reinvent life:some kind of Garden of Eden,which the apple tree on the picture has promised.

Anne's passion was doomed from the start:her situation recalls that of Phaedra:both are pure even in sin,both are victims of an implacable heredity.Even before Martin's appearance ,the over-possessive mother leaves her no chance at all.

Remarkable sequences: the old woman's "trial",her tortures,her screams (I'm not afraid of Heaven or Hell ,I'm afraid to die!" Her death at the stake ,with Ann looking through the window pane ,and realizing it's an omen.The children singing terrifying canticles about God's wrath.

The minister beginning to wonder if his faith is strong enough and the wife's infamous revelation.

The nature which was a refuge, the only sunlight the lovers could get,becomes misty ,almost dark,as the young man has lost all his hopes and illusions."No,Ann says ,it all begins" It's the seventeenth century and Ann is too ahead of her time.She and the old woman are the real human beings in the movie:the minister and his sinister mother are already dead when the film begins as much as the dying man he comforts in his last hour .Martin has got himself tangled up in remorse,superstitions (You've got a magic power) and if life means rebellion and fight ,his surrender leaves him a living dead.

The old woman ,the "witch" ,is afraid to die,which is human:Jeanne D'Arc herself,another "witch" which inspired CT Dreyer had her moments of doubt and fear,and she abjured to save her life .

"Vredens Dag" can still grab today's audience.This is a must.
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10/10
No longer in need of restoration-- get Criterion DVD
mgmax3 November 2001
Warning: Spoilers
I had long avoided this film because I didn't want to see it in an inferior print such as that described by other reviewers. Happily, the new Criterion DVD (as I write only available in a Dreyer box set, but I expect that will change) is absolutely gorgeous. The print is just short of flawless-- a few speckles here and there-- but most importantly the tonal range is true to the superb cinematography, one of the best-looking B&W DVDs available.

LOTS OF SPOILERS BELOW-- DON'T READ UNTIL YOU SEE!

Having said the above, I thought I'd add something about what I think the film means. Which necessarily means spoiling the ending (not that you're likely to be in too much doubt as you watch a movie entitled Day of Wrath). At first, expecting something like The Crucible, with a clear message against religious intolerance-- which is certainly where the first part of the movie seems to be going, with obvious application toward other forms of intolerance prevalent in 1943-- I was a bit puzzled by the ending, in which Anna is not so much a victim as self-victimizing. Having seen her throughout as something of a tragic heroine, and the movie as advocating a more liberal, tolerant Christianity (which, on the basis of other Dreyer films, I assumed was his outlook), I was unsatisfied by her willful self-destruction.

It was only after I did some reading (starting with Jonathan Rosenbaum's notes, where I learned that some think Dreyer was an atheist, or a rebel against his adoptive parents' atheism, or both) that I realized that the great genius of the film is its very ambiguity, the tragic ambiguity, that goes so far beyond a play like The Crucible, which assumes that everything will be all right if we stop being fundamentalists and become liberal and tolerant Christians. (Not that it wouldn't help!) Day of Wrath, it seems to me, is a depiction of how religious dogma destroys different people in different ways. The pastor-- and in the end, his son also-- is an object lesson in how a seemingly decent man can do evil if he's blinded to it by a rigid faith. That seems a clear enough message for 1943.

But Anna is in an entirely different movie in some ways-- a feminist tale of sorts, in which she awakens to the reality of a female subculture of witchcraft in quiet rebellion to the male-dominated religious culture, and comes to believe that she has the powers it promises (what she really has is nothing supernatural, but an awakened sexuality as well). Her tragedy, though, is that she cannot escape her childhood belief in conventional Christianity, and at the moment when she could be free, it makes her condemn herself to death. Far from demonstrating Dreyer's actual belief in either Christianity or witchcraft (as Georges Sadoul, for one, claims), this seems to me to be as clear a statement of non-belief as anything in Bunuel.
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10/10
One of Dreyer's (sound) masterpieces
MisterWhiplash19 January 2006
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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10/10
like a trip back in time
Scott449 February 2013
(BTW, I liked MisterWhiplash's 1/19/2006 comments.)

Dreyer's "Day of Wrath" is a terrifying trip back to the early seventeenth century, only without modern conveniences like motor vehicles to get one the Heck out of a crazy community on a perpetual witch hunt. It is a brave film made under military occupation. It depicts life under totalitarianism. It is slowly paced, but not boring.

The sequences up to and including the pyre scene are very moving; and certainly have inspired other films.

The principal story revolves around a family of four. There's Anne as the young wife of the aging pastor; Absalon, the pastor; Merete, the pastor's mother and Martin the pastor's son. Anne is hated by Merete, one of the most unreasonable figures in the history of cinema. Unfortunately, Merete is well represented by the rest of the community, which is perpetually on the lookout for witches. So, Anne naturally fears she will be denounced.

The pastor, psychopathic by today's standards, doesn't satisfy Anne in any way. So, Anne seeks it with Martin, at the risk of giving Merete some food for fodder. Dreyer depicts Anne's love very romantic. There's a scene on a rowboat, in a corn field, by the water. Each location is pleasant, hopeful, and a complete contrast to home life with Absalon.

Dreyer's film achieves greatness as he opens the scant possibility that maybe Anne is really a witch after all. In so doing, he takes us emotionally back to the seventeenth century and has us judge her, just as we've seen the grim-faced clergy members do before. He is making us think like members of the Inquisition!

This is a complex, brilliant movie made under Nazi occupation about totalitarianism in a parochial, seventeenth century community. It is a miracle it was made at all, and certainly inspires great interest during today's troubled times.
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10/10
A Haunting Masterpiece
William J. Fickling26 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
I can't add much to what other reviewers have said, except to reiterate that this is one of the true masterpieces of world cinema. I can't comment on the print, since I saw it on the Sundance Channel. Is it a howl of rage against religious intolerance, or any intolerance? Yes. Is it a comment on the role and powerlessness of women in a male-controlled society? Yes, in part, but to stop there would be too facile an interpretation. It is also a comment on how women can also obtain power, of a vicious, destructive sort, and use it to control and destroy others; I am thinking, of course, of Absalon's mother Merte, the true villain of the film. It is also about how those who are miserably set in their ways are threatened by, and will ultimately destroy, those who display a joie de vivre and a yearning for freedom. Perhaps the saddest line in the film is when Anne comments that when he married her, Absalon took away her youth, something she is trying to recapture in her affair with Martin. I know this wasn't Dreyer's intention, but while watching this film I couldn't help but think of the plight of women under the Taliban and other repressive regimes, and that even as I write this a young woman in Nigeria is under a death sentence by an Islamic court for having sex outside of marriage; it is a sad reminder that what happens in this film is still going on today, and perhaps will still be going on until the earth ends. The true tragedy of this film comes at the very end, when we see that Anne has come to believe she is what everyone else thinks she is. 10/10
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Temporality vs. Trascendence
The Big Combo15 November 2003
Dreyer's feature from the 40's (he roughly made one in each of the last four decades of his life) is another example of his unique talent. Day of Wrath is less whitish than other of his films, but the director's trademark lighting is at it best here. The film has elements in common with The Passion f Joan D'Arc, dealing with a powerful leading female and matters of Grace, witchcraft and Puritanism.

Dreyer masters a somehow theatrical plot with pure mise-en-scéne, using constant intercutting between indoor and outdoor spaces. The oppression of the family house, determined by heavy shadows and a mummified environment, is superbly embodied by his actors, all of them complex and full of grey zones, people that hide the most of their performances, and whose deliveries are effective and economic thanks to Dreyer's direction. He seems to direct their eyes only, the barren faces around them becoming a sort of empty canvas. The family and the world surrounding it invoke questions of transcendence that their own fails and temporality contradicts. That temporality is portrayed by an ever-present tick tack of a wall clock. Anne's fall occurs not because of his sin, rather because of her submission to the transcendence of love that seems to be impossible in such a universe, where the possibility of a passion leads inevitably to a Passion, in strictly religious terms.

As in other Dreyer's films, simple actions become memorable moments through the director's portrait and comment of them, like when the young son drinks from Anne's hands like a docile dog or the lovers' kissing behind the grass. A fantastic personal film from one of the most remarkable and coherent filmmakers of all time.
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Are You A Good Witch Or A Bad Witch? Which?
GManfred7 July 2011
Just borrowing a phrase with my summary, and not trying to trivialize "Day Of Wrath", an extraordinarily powerful film. I think we in the States are not used to films as masterfully done and as impactful as this one.

In the 17th century - Europe as well as in the States - witchcraft and witch hunts were all the rage, an age of ignorance during the Age Of Enlightment. How quaint and simplistic a notion that someone could be a witch just by anothers accusation! Director Carl Dreyer brings this idea home to us in this methodical masterpiece in harrowing detail. His story centers on a young Danish woman who goes from mouse-wife to temptress to doomed heroine. She is surrounded throughout the picture by hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness and in the end she succumbs to Christian ideals, the same ones she had been struggling to suppress for most of the picture.

You can watch until your eyes drop out and you won't find a scene not executed to perfection in all departments. I am not familiar with the actors but they were outstanding down to the smallest part. The pacing, like a Bergman film, is slow and deliberate, much the same way it would have been lived out in the 1600's. The Inquisition-type scene involving the old accused woman is even slower still, making the scene all the more horrifying, even though the torture is in the viewers mind and not on screen. Note how slowly the camera pans around the chamber of judges.

There are so many scenes worth mentioning, but it's best to see the picture for yourself if you haven't. It is an unforgettable treatment of nasty, unsavory material.
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7/10
Intense and sombre masterpiece
bbrooks9412 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
My second Dreyer, after Vampyr. However, while that particular film was perhaps a little inconsistent, this one is fantastic from start to finish. Set in a Danish village in the early 1600s at a time of suspicion and repression, both stemming from religion, it tells the story of Anna, the young second wife of a much older reverend, who has recently allowed the burning of an elderly women accused of witchcraft, and her romance with the quiet son of the reverend. It's an intense and sombre masterpiece, restrained but unbelievably terrifying. Any film about witchcraft reminds me of the British 60s classic The Witchfinder General, and while not as gory or explicit, Day of Wrath is just as, if not more, chilling. A powerful tale of betrayal and paranoia which is beautifully performed and looks stunning. Dreyer's use of light and the realistic atmosphere he creates are convincing enough of his cinematic genius.
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9/10
9/10
desperateliving2 September 2004
One of Dreyer's most accessible works; it has a dramatic story (witch hunting!) and still investigates the characters' morality and their relation to the world they exist in. This film is about the difference between life and the soul (the life that you live now and the soul of post-life, and the soul that fills your life as you live it), those at the stake and those on trial in the home, and the spells we cast on each other. When an accused witch confesses to being one to hopefully save her life (which doesn't happen) she threatens with witchery the man who won't save her. Obviously witches don't exist, but why, when sentenced to death, would she suddenly say she has a witch's power? To frighten him? Because she believes that she must be a witch, if others think she is? Or just to scare him? It's not clear. This is Dreyer's most overtly sexual film, where sex is a weapon (that eventually leads to a death); we see the relationship between the young girl, Anne, who falls in love with her much older husband's son (the same actor who played Johannes in Dreyer's next great film, "Ordet"), and, by the end of the film, we see that she has cast her spell on him, and is herself to be accused of being a witch.

Dreyer's films, which got more difficult as he got older, don't seem to have a date; certainly period pieces like this exist in a certain time, but put "Day of Wrath" next to "Gertrud" and you'd hardly notice a twenty year difference -- or few hundred years difference, in terms of the setting. And yet Dreyer's sense of place is almost unmatched, largely because of his simplicity: the costumes seem almost amateur, the acting is theatrical -- not so much in style, but in presentation (the actors seem to have been told where to stand and when). His films exist purely within this world he created, not minding the styles of the day; he's the truest of auteurs. He is also one of the great directors of women, and here elicits excellent performances from his entire cast (keeping in mind the date of production) but especially those of the two mothers in the film, the one who is put to the stake, and the other who is the mother to Anne's much older husband.

Despite the heavy seriousness of the religious beliefs in the film, Dreyer isn't religiously driven. He is driven by the soul, but these films are not the works of a fundamentalist. Dreyer looks at the actions of the characters, which are, at their worst, adultery and murder, and uses them as a moral, spiritual, and personal crisis in which to look for nothing less than meaning in life. 9/10
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Strong Look at Religion and Love
Michael_Elliott12 September 2012
Day of Wrath (1943)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Carl Theodor Dreyer's dark tale about a Reverend (Thorkild Roose) who allows a woman to be burned at the stake for being a witch only to eventually lose his much younger wife (Lisbeth Movin) to his own son (Preben Lerdorff Rye). I've been quite critical of the director with some of his movies and I've always been honest in saying that there's just something about his style that doesn't always work for me but I found DAY OF WRATH to be a completely compelling picture that pretty much grabs you from the start and doesn't let go. I know a lot of people, myself included, has complained about the director's sometimes slow pacing and that slowness is here again but I think it really helps this picture. I really liked the slow start of the picture dealing with the elderly woman who feels that the reverend should spare her life. I thought this led to some interesting situations and in one of the best scenes in the film, the wife questions why or how anyone could be given so much power. I also really enjoyed the middle section of the film dealing with the relationship between the wife and son. At first I was really wondering how on Earth these two could have fallen in love so fast and especially since we didn't see it happen but I think this here pays off towards the end of the picture. The three lead actors all do a terrific job in their part and I was especially impressed with Movin as I found her to be incredibly touching in her role as well as highly seductive. The beautiful cinematography is another major plus for the film and I really loved the use of darkness and shadows. DAY OF WRATH is a very open and honest look at religion and love and I think it ranks as one of the director's best films.
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9/10
one of the best films ever made
ToddZimmerman727 September 2002
Day of Wrath has got to be one of the best movies ever made. It's beautiful to look at, great intriguing witch-hunting story, the filmmaking is impeccable, and it's just plain awesome. It's too bad that not many people know about this little diamond.
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8/10
A powerful story of love and belief.
The_Void10 February 2005
Although I'm certainly not religious myself, I do find the subject of religion to be fascinating, yet whenever I see a film about religion, especially old black and white subtitled ones, it tends to be a very torrid viewing for me. This was certainly the case with Ingmar Bergman's 'Winter Light', but not the case with this film; which is actually very good. I went into it with the wrong expectations because my television guide had touted it as a film about witch hunt; which although they feature in the film, that's not what it's about. The film is about loss of faith, and having to choose between what you believe and the people you love. We follow a pastor who has indicted a woman for witchcraft and later has her burnt at the stake. Around the same time, his son has returned and he has inadvertently fallen in love with his father's wife, a woman who is his junior. Much like his earlier 'Passion of the Joan of Ark', Danish genius Carl Theodor Dreyer has created a film rich with religious tones that includes themes of witchcraft and the power of belief. The lighting and way that the atmosphere is built in the film is superb, and it's obvious that a master technician made the film. However, much like Passion of Joan of Ark, and his 1932 film, Vampyr, this film also comes across as being cold - which can make it difficult to like if, like me, you value the story and characters over technical prowess and potent themes. Day of Wrath is certainly not a film for everyone, and people that dislike thought provoking, yet completely style-less pieces of art should steer clear. For everyone else, however, this is most definitely worth a watch.
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10/10
Witch craft!
greenheart15 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A Danish film with subtitles, could I be bothered? I started to watch and quite simply, couldn't take my eyes off the screen. There was a haunting atmosphere from first frame to last with classy, highly charged, emotional acting performances from all. What a joy to see a film about Witchcraft with no gimmicks. The pyre scene was brilliantly done with no punches pulled, truly frightening. The storm scene was also very well done, you could almost feel the wind ripping through you. But the acting was sublime, Anne's change from God fearing priests wife to an on-heat temptress verging on the Siren was wonderful. So was she really a witch or did her lover come when called as they were both filled with desire? Did Anne kill her husband by wishing him dead or did the shock of finding he was having an affair with his son finish him off? Do you believe in witchcraft? Watch this brilliantly produced movie and decide for yourself.
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9/10
Totally unique and a visual treat
MartinHafer4 September 2006
Given that the director, Dreyer, was an obsessive-compulsive, it's not very surprising that the movie was filmed magnificently. It is one of the more visually striking and amazing black and white films I have seen--somewhat reminiscent of German Expressionism as well as the Bergman film THE SEVENTH SEAL. It was simply beautiful to watch. And, to heighten the visual impact, the characters (especially the supporting ones) look much like they were lifted from 17th century paintings by Rembrandt and Holbein.

As for the film itself, it was very well-crafted. At times it was very hard to watch (such as the torture scene and the scene where the old woman was burned alive), and at other times it did seem a tiny bit tedious (but not so much that it spoiled the film) and other times the film was quite odd--especially since the direction the film went really surprised me. In the end, you find that Dreyer's film wasn't necessarily an indictment on the stupidity of the witch trials and it left many questions unanswered. I really liked this vagueness--as too often films try to spoon feed and convince the viewer--this one didn't seem to care and just wanted to, at times, confuse and surprise the audience.

If you like this film, a couple other Danish films I also loved and strongly recommend (though they bear no similarity to this film) are BABETTE'S FEAST and THE CELEBRATION. Movies like these really encourage me to seek out more Danish films.
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8/10
Day of Wrath
Scarecrow-8811 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Somber, beautifully photographed tragedy regarding the rippling effect that plagues a priest after a witch is burned at the stake. Reverend Absalom(Thorkild Roose, whose face expresses such aching and longing)has recently wed a lovely, but cold, and much younger Anne(Lisbeth Moven, another actress strikingly filmed by Dreyer)who was actually the daughter of a witch. Absalon grants Anne's mother a reprieve from burning at the stake despite her confession of having the ability of bringing the dead back to life..in return he weds Anne despite the fact that she secretly loathes him. A condemned witch(Anna Svierkier)knows of the reprieve, expecting Absalon to grant her absolution from the burning stake as well. When Absalon doesn't, the witch curses him and the rest of the film follows his crisis of guilt and shame, as his recently returned son, Martin(Preben Neergaard)is "bewitched" by Anne. Absalon's mother, Merete(Sigrid Neiiendam)hates Anne(..one senses her disregard for possibly "bewitching" Absalon with her youth and beauty)and doesn't hide this, finding that her son is truly disturbed and distressed ever since the witch's death. While the film follows the blossoming love between Martin and Anne, we also see how Absalon deals with "robbing" his wife of her youth. We also see how guilt-stricken Martin is because of a love for his father's wife, and how Anne wishes for her husband's death so that she can marry the man she truly loves. An important sub-plot Absalon visiting a dying priest, Laurentius(Olaf Ussing), who was cursed to die by the witch shortly after torturing a confession from her.

I liked how director Carl Theodor Dreyer keeps the possibility of real witchcraft ambiguous. Does Anne or the condemned witch have supernatural powers or are these people so plagued with their own inner demons that pointing out others' sins gives them a sort of outlet or release? Anne can be pointed out in scorn by a majority for her affair with her husband's son, but does she actually bewitch Martin? Does her wishing for Absalon's death actually cause it to take place, or does a broken heart lead to his unfortunate demise? Does the witch actually curse Laurentius or Absalon, or were they doomed to their fates beforehand? The way I see it, this house was a repressed, joyless environment to begin with and Merete wouldn't have liked Anne no matter what. Absalon was, in simple terms, a mama's boy who she held close to her bosom. Anne was confined in an existence of regret and despair..she doesn't, or has ever, loved her husband, and Martin rides in sweeping her off her feet. Martin is her knight-in-shining-armor who can rescue her from this emotionless claustrophobia, a dream come true. But, the love they share will be unrequited..Anne and Martin are victims of fate and circumstance. The witch burnt at the stake merely provided an excuse to an already burdened Absalon, aware of his sins regarding Anne and her mother. I think Dreyer does a good job of displaying how right and wrong the budding romance of Anne and Martin is. I also felt he deftly handles the theme of guilt regarding Absalon and how he can not escape the situation he has created, blaming himself for Anne's unfortunate role of wife. I think he understands truthfully that their marriage wasn't built on love, only coming to terms with that fact at the very end of his life. Great, thought-provoking cinema..heart-breaking because watching such familial deterioration is never quite that easy. Neither is seeing characters boxed into such depressing circumstances, kept from truly experiencing joy. One might look at this film as a precursor to the "crisis of faith" films later directed by Ingmar Bergman.
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9/10
I heard nothing, I saw nothing, but in my soul I felt my death had been decided
sol22 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
(There are Spoilers) It's 1623 and the fear of Witchcraft is running rampant all throughout Europe as we all focuses in on this little town in Denmrak where the movie "Day of Wrath" begins. Village Vicar Absalon Pedersson is eagerly awaiting to see his now grown up son Martin who's been away since his mother, Absalon's first wife, died and want's to introduce him to his new wife, and Martin's step-mother, Anne who's young enough to be Martin's sister. We see right away that things aren't going that smoothly in the Pedersson household with Absalon's mother Merete having a very violent dislike of her daughter-in-law and not bothering to hide her feelings about Anne even when her husband Absalon is present.

Running from a lynch mob who, after it was decreed that she's a witch, want to burn her at the stake Herlofs Marte breaks into the Pedersson house and is confronted by Anne whom she begs to hide her from the vengeful mob out to get and burn her. Anne who does her best to hide Marte is encouraged to do so from what the fugitive tells her about her own mother who also was convicted of being a witch but was pardoned by Anne now husband Absalon. It seems that Absalon in wanting to marry the suspected witch's beautiful daughter did that favor for the accused witch in order to get her daughter Anne to marry him and in the end in getting her off the hook, or out of the barn fire, worked to perfection as he and Anne were married almost overnight.

The life that Absalon had with Anne was anything but blissful and happy with him not really treating her as a wife and the fact that he was well into his years he could have hardly been expected to even satisfy her as a lover and have Anne bear him a child. That caused her to developed a very deep hatred for him which his mother Merete spotted, if Absalon didn't, right away.

Meanwhile Herlofs is tried for the crime of witchcraft and begs Absalon, who's to decide her fate, to spear her life like he speared his wife's Anne mothers life but this time he sticks to his guns, not wanting to make the same mistake twice, and sentences her to be burned at the stake. The public burning of Herlofs Marte takes place in the town square with both Anne and Martin present. As Herlofs is just about to be done in she curses Absalon and predicts that his wife Anne will also meet the same fate that she's now about to have and is then thrown, tied to a ladder, head first into the smoldering flames.

As Herlofs predicted fate soon starts to turn it's wheels in pointing Anne to end up the same way that she did as her mind is taken over by an evil spirit, the Devil? Anne starts to get the innocent and virgin Martin involved with her amorous and evil thoughts as the two become secret lovers sneaking out in the fields and bogs and involving themselves in having an illicit, and ungodly, affair behind Anne's husband and Martin father Absalons back.

Absalon's mother Merete who saw right from the start that Anne was no good can only wait for the other shoe, the first had to do with Absalon marrying Anne, to finally drop in Anne's infidelities leading to her son's sudden, but not unexpected, and shocking death. Anne now madly in love with Martin and wanting the old man out of the way induced him to get a fatal heart-attack by spilling the beans about her and Martin's sinful affair.

Martin having falling under the evil spell of his lover Anne is unable to get it in his mind that she was responsible for his fathers death and gives her a pass but Mama Pedersson, or Merete, isn't that thoughtful. She saves all the fireworks that's to happen in the movie "Day of Warth" at her son's funeral which in effect becomes her "Day of Wrath" exposing to the town elders who Anne is and even worse what she did that earns her the same fate, as she so accurately predicted, as the recently and unceremoniously departed Marte Herlofs had.
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10/10
overwhelming
jonathan-57711 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Talk about a haunting movie, and not just in the awful beauty of the compositions; I'm talking about the whole vision. I have spent days grappling with it. Holding out hope for humanity under the bleakest possible circumstances, this fifteenth-century witch hunt story doesn't just flip the good-evil paradigm. The victims of the witch hunt have their own superstitions, their own petty indulgences and murderous impulses; the perpetrators have their own moral agonies. This is a movie about the individual's struggle against a corrupt society where the individual loses: deadly grim, it shows exactly how f*cked-up things can get, and doesn't provide any easy answers about how to get out from under it, except crucially to assert that it can't be done alone. But the agonizingly tragic sense of loss and corruption - of youth, of love, of freedom - can only come, I think, from a deep belief that a better world is possible. If you hate Ingmar Bergman, you probably will not get this, yet another dour and glacial Scandinavian narrative of yet another dark night of the soul. But the mood is not just a mannerism, and the craft is so brilliant that I for one was able to overcome all my biases and get totally swept away in it, overwhelmed. Dreyer really, really knows what he's doing.
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8/10
Taking You To Another Place Entirely
barnesgene26 May 2007
I always say that movies should transport the viewer out of their own lives and into the film's. By the time Merthe exits her shack through the back way to escape the mob, and the scene shifts to the well-to-do Pastor's house, both very early in the film, one is so thoroughly inside late medieval Denmark that it's tough to get back to the Land of the Living when the film is over. Movie gets two points off for unnecessarily spacious editing and some redundant moments, but it's really killer stuff all the same. Merthe's character, a seemingly minor one, simply leaps off the screen and won't let you go. Similarly, other minor characters are amazingly well executed as well.
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10/10
A grim , compelling drama of superstition and hatred
mlraymond10 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This somber, slow paced film is never dull, despite its deliberate, low key telling of its tragic story. The performances are all excellent, with Lisbeth Movin as the young wife of an aging pastor especially good. The atmosphere of fear and twisted faith that allows good men to torture people accused of witchcraft is totally convincing. A must see film, moving to the point of being over-powering by the end.The characters are shown in all their human frailty, from the guilt ridden pastor to his hateful old mother, his unhappy young wife and idealistic son. Evil things are done by characters who are not themselves evil stereotypes, but complex human beings.
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5/10
Beautifully filmed? Yes. Masterpiece? No!
michoyl15 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Yes. It's true the film is beautifully shot, with some superb camera-work. I think the opening scene is sheer genius as the camera slowly moves to reveal all the elements of the scene one by one. Brilliant! The lighting is atmospheric, with a beautiful, evocative use of shadows, especially the rippling of leaves which somehow echoes the fire to come... Even the acting is fairly good throughout. But is it enough? Emotionally, it's fairly difficult to come to grips with a story in which the only character with any degree of integrity is the old woman who is burned as a witch early on. Perhaps the mother, too, has a certain degree of consistency about her behaviour, though I wouldn't want to meet her on a dark night! As for the others... a mixed bag of self-interested whingers, ready to do the hypocritical dirty at a moment's notice.

Perhaps none of this should matter, but there's a kind of insistent dreariness to proceedings which gives the viewer just a little too much time to think about whether he/she (or me, in this case) really gives a damn what happens to any of these people. And certainly it gave me enough time to wonder whether some of the dialogue - especially the husband/wife discussion re love - wasn't just a little too modern for what purports to be a period piece.

Yes. It was made during the occupation. Etc. Etc. And? It would have been just as easy to adhere to the internal logic and arrive at the same message... ah...

The message...

What, exactly, was it? I mean, I suppose I assumed it was to decry Man's-Inhumanity-to-Man, the absurdity of burning poor old ladies (or young ones)as witches. But was it? Perhaps I'm wrong, because, at the end, it seems "like mother, like daughter". The mother was a witch and the daughter not only seems to be convinced she has the same powers to kill, but actually manages to use them!!! Apparently.

So are witches meant to be real? And, if they go around killing people who've done nothing more than show them a little kindness (the husband, in his own, misguided way), isn't the world better off without them? Hmmmm. By the end of the film, albeit detesting the son's cowardice, I was thoroughly confused.

Sorry. Not a patch on "Vampyr", which - for my money - really IS a masterpiece!!! This film simply paved the way for some of Bergman's more tedious offerings...
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8/10
Severe
Polaris_DiB18 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I had to search a long time for a good word to describe this movie, and I decided upon "severe". Dreyer is not being judgmental upon his characters, but he does not, in this movie, allow them to get away with their transgressions. He has sympathy for all of them and gives them the benefit of the doubt, but they are not redeemed as necessarily good people. It is up to God to judge them.

An old woman named Herlofs Marte is hunted in town as a witch, driving her to the estate of Absolon Pederson, where his young wife Anne attempts to hide her. She is quickly caught, but her relationship with with Anne's mother and Absolon himself seals the fate of many when Herlofs Marte threatens Absolon after Absolon refuses to defend her. Then Absolon's son Martin comes into town and immediately catches Anne's heart, and Anne seduces/ensnares/(bewitches?) Martin into an affair. Everyone, from there, is basically doomed.

Dreyer directs the movie in very long, gently tracking takes, simultaneously entrapping the characters in frames they rarely escape from and yet also delicately observing their every movement. It is not necessarily a punishing viewpoint--mostly it is empathetical as the characters do more than enough to punish themselves--it's just that everything seems harsh and worn out in this world. Even the idyllic beauty of the outdoors, to which Anne and Martin attempt to escape from time to time, is cloudy and cluttered.

This classic is gripping, and definitely not to be missed. It has, however, a very dark eye towards humanity, so tread with caution.

--PolarisDiB
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8/10
Classic
Cosmoeticadotcom10 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1943 film Day Of Wrath (Vredens dag), adapted from Hans Wiers-Jenssens' novel, Day Of Wrath, by Dreyer, is an earlier, better version of the issues tackled in Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible, because, even though the film was made during the Nazi occupation of Denmark, and there are obvious parallels to be drawn between that and the film's narrative, it is never as psychologically obvious nor melodramatic as Miller's later allegory on McCarthyism. This is never made more clear than at the film's end, where the psychologically fragile Anne (Lisbeth Movin) is betrayed by her horrid mother-in-law, her lover, and her own psyche, and actually comes to believe in her own guilt of being a witch, for wishing the death of her aged husband.

The whole film is also a more realistic depiction of self-delusion than Miller's play, as the 17th Century Danish Inquisitors who torture, maim, and kill in the name of their beliefs show how easily good intentions can become twisted. Anne is clearly the central figure, and her rise and fall, from shy dour hausfrau of old Reverend Absalon Pedersson (Thorkild Roose), to energetic vibrant lover of his son, Martin (Preben Lerdorff Rye), who is about the same age as her, and returns to the home after years abroad, to denounced, deluded, and subservient victim of her wicked mother-in-law, Merete (Sigrid Neiiendam), is the center of the film's drama and emotion.

Day Of Wrath is one of the most masterful black and white films ever made, and the use of shadow by Dreyer and cinematographer Karl Andersson is stunning. Only other Dreyer films come close to being as effective in the use of such as this film is…. Day Of Wrath is one of those films that is possibly difficult to judge by modern standards, yet if it is not clearly a great film, the way his earlier Vampyr is, it's only because it is not a genre work, like that film, and thus not subject to a more delimited horizon. In many ways, these same issues would be tackled a decade and a half later, in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, a more modern and complex work, yet one which never quite hits the visceral peaks this film does. And, comparisons to other great works of art are never to be dismissed lightly. Neither is Day Of Wrath.
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4/10
Lethargic and Trite
kenjha18 February 2011
Dreyer is regarded as one of the masters of early cinema and this is one of his best known films. Based solely on the evidence presented in this film, it's obvious that the man had a strong visual style, but it's not clear he was very good with actors or storytelling. The cinematography here is quite striking, recalling Rembrandt paintings. However, the plot is simple and underwhelming and the pacing is extremely lethargic. The characters are not particularly interesting, perhaps because the dialog is trite (at least the English subtitles). The acting ranges from wooden to melodramatic. This film looks like a primer for Ingmar Bergman.
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7/10
Remarkable Classic!
mirosuionitsaki216 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
VREDENS DAG is one of the most remarkable and beautiful films of 1940s I have seen.

The subtitles, though, were often.. missing. What I mean is sometimes when a character spoke, there were no subtitles which could have left me confused if I have not watched it carefully. But anywho, I thought this was a great piece. It was sad how the old lady had to die because she was accused of being a witched, although there were no proof. Just because someone denounced her as a witch. I pity those times for their lack of common sense.

I recommend this movie for anyone who love classic movies.
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