Carl Theodor Dreyer Set Day of Wrath / Ordet / Gertrud / My Metier The Criterion Collection
Special Edition, Criterion Collection
DVD | Box Set
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Following the release of Carl Th. Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, The Criterion Collection renews its commitment to this major director with a Special Edition box set of his sound films, Day of Wrath, Ordet, and Gertrud. Each is an intense exploration of the clash between individual desire and social expectations, with Dreyer's famously perfectionist attention to detail shining throughout. With brand new digital transfers supervised by Gertrud director of photography Henning Bendtsen, the Criterion Collection is proud to present these Dreyer masterpieces on DVD for the first time. The fourth disc in the set presents the masterful 1995 documentary on Dreyer by Danish filmmaker Torben Skødt Jensen, Carl Th. Dreyer-My Métier. Extensive interviews with collaborators and actors provide fresh insight into the life and work of one of cinema's great masters.
When asked to describe his work, Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer said that film should present "truth filtered through an artist's mind, truth liberated from unnecessary detail." This collection of Dreyer's three major sound features demonstrates the director's rigorous commitment to that idea.
Day of Wrath (1943)--filmed during the Nazi occupation of Denmark--is set in a 17th-century village where the fear of witchcraft and the repression of human passions lead to tragedy. Ordet (1955) is considered by many to be Dreyer's masterpiece. This complex family drama is both moving and challenging, and the ending is one of cinema's greatest moments. Gertrud (1964) tells the story of a woman's search for fulfillment. Nina Pens Rode gives an extraordinary performance, heightened by Dreyer's peerless pacing and composition.
Accompanying the three films is a documentary by avant-garde filmmaker Torben Skjodt Jensen. Dreyer claimed to be surprised that anyone would want to make a film about him, but a greater understanding of the personality and the craft that went into the making of these films only enhances their impact. In spite of a career characterized by as many setbacks as successes, Dreyer's uncompromising commitment to his art (he once suspended filming because the clouds were moving in the wrong direction) resulted in work that continues to enthrall audiences and inspire filmmakers to this day.
Interviews with Dreyer's collaborators provide the backbone of My Metier, but it is Jensen's visual approach--building layered images from photographs, manuscripts, and film clips--that explores and responds to Dreyer's movies in subtle but powerful ways. Instead of a succession of talking heads and illustrative excerpts, Jensen offers an impressionistic portrait of Dreyer in a documentary that is often as beautiful as its subject's own work. --Simon Leake
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Ordet is, perhaps, the most shocking of the three. The film dwells upon the spiritual lives of its characters, and it addresses this spiritual plane in several ways - strikingly through madness, through sectarian conflict, and through the mysteries of birth and death. The utter seriousness of its approach (save for a humorous reference to Kierkegaard (believe it or not)) allows the viewer to enter unreservedly into the film's world, which in turn allows for a miraculous climax, that is unbearably moving, itself a miracle of the cinema. So many of the universal elements in human existence are at work here that each viewer will undoubtedly find resonances within his or her own life.
Day of Wrath is a disturbing Freudian drama, cloaked in a world of tyrranical religion and witchcraft. Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible' was allegedly influenced by this film. The second wife of an aging cleric, rather precipitiously engages in an affair with her husband's son from his first marriage, all under the stony eye of her fearsome mother-in-law. Self-reproach and resentment abound, and the damning of witches stands as an allegory that is not limited simply to sexuality.
The acting in both these films is particularly fine. Dreyer pioneers some cinematographic techniques too, such as the tracking of the camera while reverse panning, and some memorable horizon shots (was Kurosawa in the audience?).
Gertrud, while recognisably Dreyer's work, is quite different. Here the nature of time and its role in film is central, and one can she how this film might have been a catalyst for some of Tarkovsky's thoughts. The acting is incredibly stylised, and the tableau as carefully arranged as still lifes. This film is so far removed from ordinary film conventions that it can be hard to relate to - in terms of the viewing experience perhaps there are some similarities to seeing an Antonioni film, but not too many: this film is unique.
Criterion have provided their usual superb transfers, and an interesting documentary. Really, the whole production of this package is faultless. A booklet provides a short extract from the book 'Dreyer in Double Reflection: Carl Dreyer's Writings on Film', edited by Donald Skoller, and I can also recommend this book in its entirety. Finally, Dreyer's Passion of Joan of Arc, also on Criterion, is as great as any of these three films.
The three works of art ("Gertrud", "Ordet" and "Vredens dag") are presented in gorgeus Black and White preserving its original aspect ratio, with good extras and accompained by a magnificent additional disc presenting the documentary "Carl Th. Dreyer: Min Metier".
These three Danish films are living beings of film history. They represent the highest level of "trascendental cinema" and create a new visual and conceptual world. The 'mise en scene', composition and character developing reach an unbelievable strength in most of the sequences in this Collection.
I can't finish without suggesting you to buy this magnificent pack as well as the other two Dreyer's films released by Criterion on DVD: "La passion de Jeanne d'Arc" and "Vampyr". If you do this, the artistic level of your 'DVDtheque' will improve enormusly.
Most recent customer reviews
The movie is quite theatrical, and a demanding drama which reward concentration.