Friday, September 14, 2012

#124: Carl Theodor Dreyer Box Set

(Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1943-1964)

I was about to write that this is a love-it-or-hate-it boxset, but I wrote this instead because if you hate these Dreyer films, but love cinema, you really need to watch them again. And again. And again until you get them right. Even if Ordet is not especially my type of film thematically speaking, all three of these masterpieces are stunning cinematic accomplishments. They should be required viewing for anyone interested in film.

Of the three (and I'm not counting the documentary about Dreyer that comes with this set), my favorite was undoubtedly Gertrud. This is true not just because it was the most interesting to me from a plot perspective (and dwelled the least on overtly religious elements), but because the films seemed progressively more technically accomplished - an impressive, almost unimaginable feat considering how well-executed Day of Wrath is. Although there are a great many filmmakers who are easily identifiable by their signature style, Dreyer's appears to me to be the least easily replicated. There are probably only a handful of films in history that could not have been made by any other director. Gertrud is quite simply impossible to imagine without Dreyer's hand, not because it would be different in tone, less pronounced in its visual style, or thematically altered, but because it would very clearly cease to be the film that it is in any regard. Gertrud is practically about Dreyer as a director, yet he never overshadows what's on screen. It's a brilliant, brilliant movie.

Still, they are all brilliant, and while this isn't my favorite boxset in the collection, it's probably the first one I'd give to someone who told me they wanted to become a serious cinephile. Dreyer doesn't quite reach the apex of film as an artform for me, but he just might be the purest representation of the auteur and film's ability to manifest its creator's inexplicable spirituality.

Links to the individual reviews:

Day of Wrath
My Metier

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