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Gertrud (1964)

 -  Drama  -  2 June 1966 (USA)
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In the elegant world of artists and musicians, Gertrud ends her marriage to Gustav and takes a lover, the composer Erland Jansson

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Title: Gertrud (1964)

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Complete credited cast:
Nina Pens Rode ...
Gertrud Kanning
Bendt Rothe ...
Gustav Kanning
Ebbe Rode ...
Gabriel Lidman
Erland Jansson
Axel Strøbye ...
Axel Nygen
Karl Gustav Ahlefeldt
Vera Gebuhr ...
The Kannings' Maid
Lars Knutzon ...
Student orator
Anna Malberg ...
Kanning's mother
Edouard Mielche ...
The Rector Magnificus (as Edouard Mielché)


In the elegant world of artists and musicians, Gertrud ends her marriage to Gustav and takes a lover, the composer Erland Jansson. When he also fails to live up to her idealistic standards, she leaves him and imposes on herself a kind of exile of the heart. In flashbacks and in conversations laced with memories, we also learn of her affair with Gabriel, who still wishes she would go off with him, and we learn of her adolescence, with its early expression of her isolating ideal of absolute love. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

2 June 1966 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Gertrud  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (TV)

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Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Despite running 2 hours, there are less than 90 shots in the entire film and only one exterior scene. This may account for the outright hostility that greeted the film from the critical fraternity when it was first released. See more »


When Gertrud walks across the room in order to give Axel his letters back, the shadow from the camera and equipment can clearly be seen on the back wall. See more »


Gertrud Kanning: When I understood it all, then my heart grew old.
See more »


Referenced in The Runestone (1991) See more »


Ich grolle nicht
from "Dichterliebe, Op.48"
Words by Heinrich Heine (though, sung in Danish)
Music by Robert Schumann
See more »

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User Reviews

A complex masterpiece
9 September 2007 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

Werner Erhard says, "You don't have to go looking for love when it is where you are coming from". For the chilly, statuesque wife in Carl Dreyer's last film Gertrud, love is not a living, breathing reality, but an ideal to be sought in its purest form. Reviled in its day for its being an artistic anachronism, Gertrud is now recognized for the complex masterpiece it truly is. With its long takes and static camera, it seems at odds with the French New Wave jump cuts and innovative techniques, yet it has much in common with those films of the 60s that depict the soulless fragmentation and alienation of modern life even though Gertrud takes place at the turn of the century.

In Gertrud, love is something to strive for but is unattainable on Earth and each character (like perhaps Dreyer himself) is a figure living to one degree or another in loneliness. Shot with very few close-ups, the camera keeps us at a distance throughout, perhaps reminding us of the isolation of the human condition. Based on a 1906 play of the same name by Hjalmar Soderberg, Gertrud (Nina Pens Rode), a former professional singer, is an emotionally unfulfilled woman who finds something missing in the four primary relationships in her life. She is married to Gustav (Bendt Rothe), an ambitious politician, but sees him as being more interested in his career than in her.

She is in love with a young concert pianist, Erland Jannson (Baard Owe), but is repelled by his consorting with other women and using her name to brag to others about his conquests. She feels that another suitor, poet Gabriel Lidman (Ebbe Rode), cares more about fulfilling his own desires than nurturing hers, and that psychologist Axel (Axel Strobye) is more interested in an intellectual liaison than a physical one. Although her emotional expression never becomes very intense, Gertrud tells Gustav that she is leaving him on the very day that he is supposed to receive a promotion to cabinet rank. Deeply hurt by her suggestion that he didn't show her enough love, he pleads with her not to leave him but his pleas are met with coldness.

When she tells him that she is going to the opera that evening, he pursues her to the theater, only to discover that she did not tell him the truth about her whereabouts. In the drive to the opera, we are privy to Gustav's thoughts, the only time during the film that we are allowed entry into the character's mind. He is determined to win her back, only to discover later that she stayed at the home of Erland Jannson. In a subsequent meeting with Erland in the park, she asks him to go away with her so that they can live together by the sea but he rejects the idea, telling her that he has a relationship with Constance that he cannot break off. It is shortly thereafter that an old lover, poet Gabriel Lidman, reveals that he ran into Erland at a party, boasting of the fact that he had conquered the aloof Gertrud.

Gabriel has returned to Denmark to receive an award and has his heart set on reviving his amorous relationship with Gertrud. However, in one of the film's most telling moments, shown in flashback, she recalls finding a note on Gabriel's desk that says "A woman's love and a man's work are mortal enemies". She uses that note to not only rebuff Gabriel but to reject all suitors and decide that she can never find happiness with a man. Refusing to compromise and stuck in the notion that spiritual fulfillment must include emotional pain, Gertrud at long last finds her destiny but only at the cost of emotional connection.

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