Carl Th. Dreyer: My Métier
Carl Theodor Dreyer is a young journalist in Copenhagen when he gets involved in the early Danish film industry. He writes scripts and inter-titles, and for some years he is the main editor ... Read allCarl Theodor Dreyer is a young journalist in Copenhagen when he gets involved in the early Danish film industry. He writes scripts and inter-titles, and for some years he is the main editor at Nordisk Film. After those years of apprenticeship he gets the opportunity to direct his... Read allCarl Theodor Dreyer is a young journalist in Copenhagen when he gets involved in the early Danish film industry. He writes scripts and inter-titles, and for some years he is the main editor at Nordisk Film. After those years of apprenticeship he gets the opportunity to direct his first film in 1917. Dreyer wanted his films to carry his personal imprints down to the sm... Read all
My Métier certainly doesn't deserve its own case and spine number. This is the first time they did it, and I hope to God they don't do it again. They should have just slapped it on the Day of Wrath DVD, since that film is only a little over 90 minutes long. To give it its own spine number raises it to the level of the other three films in the box set, which is basically an insult to Carl Dreyer; everything which is said in praise of him in the documentary doesn't end up negating that initial insult.
My Métier is not as bad as the Antonioni documentary. It does contain useful and interesting information. But its purpose is little more than biographical and laudatory. There are a lot of clips of interviews with the few actors and cinematographers who worked with him and are still alive. The information they give is a lot like what you would hear on a director's or actors' commentary track on a DVD - interesting, maybe, but of little importance. More useful are the read-aloud excerpts from Dreyer's own writings (there's a great quotation about Dreyer's feelings for the French New Wave, along with clips of him meeting with Truffaut, Godard, and Anna Karina, who had only a couple of years below played a woman named Dreyer in Le petit soldat and who could be seen weeping over The Passion of Joan of Arc in Vivre sa vie). What is sorely lacking is any actual analysis of the films themselves. As Dreyer himself said, and as the film itself quotes him as saying (and then cursorily ignores), he is not the main point of interest, but it is his films which are. Well, he IS of importance. In fact, I'll even complain that the biographical information in the film is lacking. The only information that they really give is for the period between The Passion of Joan of Arc and Gertrud. The film says nothing about the fate of his mother, who had to give him up and later died when trying to give herself an abortion. This is key to understanding Dreyer's prevailing themes, yet it is wholly ignored. Getting back to his films, his early ones are almost completely ignored. Except for a catalogue and a couple of scenes from his hardly-seen second film Leaves of Satan's Book (there are a couple of great scenes excerpted from this film). The Passion of Joan of Arc probably gets more time than any other film (well, it is his best film, IMO). Vampyr is barely discussed at all. This is disappointing, since it is probably the only film of his that I've seen with which I was disappointed. I would like to see it defended or examined. Day of Wrath, Ordet, and Gertrud get about equal time, and Two People, a very rare film which he made in the late 40s, is very rudely dismissed as "his biggest flop." Perhaps it is, but that's all the more reason to discuss it. I've read elsewhere that Dreyer was embarrassed at it and that he begged the Danish Film Institute not to show it at retrospectives, but an artist's failures are nearly as important as his hits, no matter how that artist feels about them (btw, of all the films he did get made, only The Passion of Joan of Arc and Ordet weren't "flops," which is why it's taken over 30 years for Gertrud to be seen in the US for a second time; Two People is his only sound film that is allowed to remain a flop). Even "They Caught the Ferry," a short film Dreyer made for the government to promote drivers' safety, gets about a dozen times more attention.
About the style of the documentary itself, it tries really hard to be artistic. It should be much more restrained than it is. The director seems to have sat in a room and watched Errol Morris' films, particularly The Thin Blue Line, over and over again. The film's pseudo-Philip Glass score becomes irritating almost immediately. Really, this should have been an extra, not its own DVD. For comparison, check out the extra documentaries which are included on the DVDs of the Eisenstein box set. Now THOSE are useful.
- Sep 7, 2001