Dreyer Drives Me Mad

BAMcinematek just concluded its DREYER retrospective. And I now count Dreyer among my top three favorite directors along with Mizoguchi and Herzog.

He knocked me on my ass. I’m still reeling from the experience and I just ordered the Criterion set of ORDET, DAY OF WRATH, and GERTRUD + a terrific documentary on Dreyer, CARL TH. DREYER-MY METIER, in which many of the actor reflect on working with him*. I’m in awe that the technology exists making it possible to own these master works. It’s as if I could have a Vermeer in my home.

In the halls of BAM we discuss moments in Dreyer films every day. Last night was the final Dreyer screening: VAMPYR and again our heads are spinning. I wish I could see it again. Right now, for breakfast. I want to watch again the magnificent scene of the shadow man with a peg leg walking along a wall. Then, all of sudden the shadow is next to a real man. And the man and the shadow move together. I gasped.

I gasp a lot with Dreyer. Other gasp moments:

-ORDET: when the two fathers–one on the left who looks like Father Christmas and one  the right, a religious fanatic–discuss the fact that their children are in love and want to marry the religious dude lights and smokes a pipe. As he insinuates that if the Father Christmas guy is willing to be converted, he’d let his daughter marry, the smoke from his pipe moves slowly leftwards. The puff of smoke is directly in front of the man on the left as he becomes conscious of this manipulation which is utterly abhorrent to him. It is an exquiste marrying of the physical and the methaphorial.

-ORDET: When the doctor is leaving Father Christmas guy’s home after assuring everyone that the man’s daughter-in-law is on the mend everything that happens is flabbergasting. I had goosebumps. 1. The Jesus-son begins to walk on a diagonal from the lower right to the upper left, heading to the door of the sick room, 2. The doctor’s headlights move throughout the room, signaling death’s arrival. I watched in four times in a row. I could watch it again right now. (My Criterion package hasn’t arrived yet. Maybe I’ll watch it in the Archive Room at work for a little treat later today.)

-DAY OF WRATH: When the young wife and her son-of-her-husband lover go to the river and go boating (YoungWitchWife and AffairMan-son Go Boating). The scene hits a pinacle at the tree that almost appears to be weeping into the water. The juxaposition of her joy and hopes and his dread are almost unbearable. You just know who is right and now you are going to have to watch the young woman’s destruction on every level: physiologically and psychologically. These people are trying to destroy her spirit, her soul.

Dreyer isn’t for the weak of heart or for the impatient. But if you are in the mood or need food for the soul, he’s your man.

  • I just googled Dreyer/Criterion to find the exact title of the documentary and saw the the Criterion set is temporarily out of stock on Amazon! I’m guessing others were just as inspired as I was to grab Dreyer for themselves.

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