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Leaves From Satan's Book

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Editorial Reviews

Satan attempts to win God's favor but is doomed to cheerless participation in dark episodes of human history: the temptation of Jesus, the Spanish Inquisition, the French revolution, and the Russo-Finnish war of 1918.


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Helge Nissen, Halvard Hoff, Jacob Texiere, Hallander Helleman, Ebon Strandin
  • Directors: Carl Theodor Dreyer
  • Writers: Carl Theodor Dreyer, Edgar Høyer, Marie Corelli
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Silent
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: April 5, 2005
  • Run Time: 121 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007LXOZ0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,837 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Leaves From Satan's Book" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Underwood on April 7, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
After D W Griffith made "Intolerance" in 1916, weaving together four main periods of history with a common theme, Denmark's leading director, Carl Theodor Dreyer, was inspired to make a similar dramatic film, and considering that "Leaves from Satan's Book" was only his second film, it was a splendid achievement. Unlike "Intolerance", Dreyer tells each historic episode from beginning to end, probably making it less confusing and easier watching for many viewers. Dreyer's common theme is betrayal, and the focus is on Satan who has been doomed to mislead mankind into evil doings, and who takes the form of a person in each historic period in order to accomplish his work. For instance, in the first story set in the last days of Christ, Satan appears in the guise of a Pharisee who tempts and misleads Judas into his infamous act of betrayal, and then continues to play pivotal roles in misleading mere mortals into acts of betrayal throughout history: the second setting being Spain during the Inquisition, then the French Revolution and finally a little-known (to most of us, anyway) conflict in Communist Russian-occupied Finland of 1918, which was no doubt close to the hearts of many Scandinavians at the time this film was made in the years 1918-1920.

The stories are interesting and different in each episode, and there is an interesting slant on Satan himself who actually doesn't want to do what he's doing, which is a nice change from the stereotype of the completely wicked villain with no depth or character. And like this angle, there is quite a bit of story to take in with more intertitles than usual, but worth a bit of effort because the stories flow well with good photography, and together they make a poignant theme of betrayal which is at the root of many dark periods of our history.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Hiram Gomez Pardo HALL OF FAME on September 1, 2005
Format: DVD
At the age of 31, Carl Dryer undertakes the realization of this film, a kind of European answer to David Griffith's Intolerance . He chooses four examples of fanaticism that as you know have always characterized the history of the mankind. But on the contrary of the Californian film maker, Dryer limits to tell these tales one by one, without intending, in any moment, to break the continuity through the parallel set up. The play divides, therefore, in four perfectly differentiated parts. What it ties them is Satan's character, that rebirths in four distinct characters with the aim of provoking the temptation on the Earth and incite to men to the most perverse actions.

Dreyer would reveal, years after that: "Stiller and above all Sjöström are who truly invented the poetic effects in the cinema." . In this notable episode of sorcery, throughout the Spanish Inquisition, it adverts the suffering issue and the expiation, that is the germinal seed that Dreyer will explore with all his maturity in "The Passion of Joan of Arc."
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Chip Kaufmann on April 15, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Carl Theodor Dreyer remains one of the world's most interesting filmmakers. He, Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller were the first to explore the Scandinavian psyche in the early days of silent film. He was the most introspective of the three as PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, DAY OF WRATH, and GERTRUD clearly demonstrate. Among the things that characterize Dreyer's cinematic style are languid pacing, interesting camerawork, and intense but relatively restrained performances from his actors.

I was therefore surprised to find LEAVES FROM SATAN'S BOOK a great deal more melodramatic in execution than I would have thought. The premise is fascinating. God orders Satan to go about his evil ways and for every soul who yields to temptation 100 years are added to Satan's punishment but for every one who resists 1000 years are subtracted. Satan is therefore grieved when people give into him for he wishes to return to heaven but cannot.

Patterned after D.W. Griffith's INTOLERANCE, LEAVES is set in 4 different historical periods although Dreyer tells each story in sequence rather than going back and forth the way Griffith does. Unfortunately the acting from almost everyone except for Helge Nissen's Satan is way too broad and helps to undercut the film's serious message. Dreyer's first real film THE PARSON'S WIDOW which was made the year before is much more restrained and it has comic elements. The movie also seems to have not been speed corrected in certain scenes especially the Finnish one at the end which also undermines its overall effect.

The piano score by Philip Carli is a good one but a fuller score would have helped to distract one from the film's shortcomings. I think LEAVES FROM SATAN'S BOOK is a worthwhile film for its premise alone and deserves to be seen.
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Format: DVD
Both an adaptation of Marie Corelli's novel and a tribute to D W Griffith's Intolerance, "Leaves from Satan's Book" is an occasion for Carl Theodor Dreyer to up his film-making skills during a two year work schedule. With four short stories revolving around Satan's damnation by God. A Satan who wishes for his redemption, who even tries to have the scales turned toward good in one story. Time periods which involve treacherous regimes and dogmas where people either honor their principles or betray them.
One story occurring during Jesus's Easter, the second at the Spanish Inquisition, the third for the Reign of the Terror, and the last one in 1918, during Finland's war between the Red and the Whites.
Four short films which together span a marvelous movie that was a breakthrough for Carl Theodor Dreyer. Indeed, Dreyer displays a mastery for precision with rich visual details, gorgeous sets, exact costumes, careful customs reconstitution, magical cinematography, and captivating camera angles as he was involved in the script and even in the production design. A refusal for concession that parallels his movies. Including this one which I had quite fun watching because the plots enthralled me for their tension, their structure, their action, and details that would reoccur in Dreyer's movies.
First of all actors like Johannes Meyer who would be working on "The Master of the House".
Two, thematics like witchhunts, trials, and faith; that would come up in Day of Wrath, Ordet, and Passion of Joan of Arc.
Three, visual techniques like big close ups on the actors for which Dreyer would become famous.
And finally, future film ideas Dreyer would propose.
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