Saturday, October 20, 2012


Based on the supernatural stories In a Darkly Glass by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Vampyr is about an occult student who enters a village that is under the curse of vampires. Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer and screenplay by Dreyer and Christen Jul, the film marks Dreyer’s first time using sound to convey the world of horror as well as the world of vampires. Starring Nicolas de Gunzburg, Maurice Schutz, Rena Mandel, Sybille Schmitz, and Henriette Gerard. Vampyr is an extraordinary film from Carl Theodor Dreyer.

Allan Gray (Nicolas de Gunzburg) arrives at the small village of Courtempierre where he encounters all sorts of strange things in this remote village as he stays at an inn. Arriving into the inn to meet the occult-obsessed Gray is an old man (Maurice Schutz) who gives him a package that has a message to not open it until the old man dies. Gray treks around the village’s surroundings as he sees all sorts of strange things where he meets a mad doctor named (Jan Hieronimko) who lives at the house. Gray leaves the place as he walk towards a manor owned by the old man who has two daughters in Gisele (Rena Mandel) and the ailing Leone (Sybille Schmitz) where he sees the old man shot. Gray tries to save the old man as he wonders what is going on. Staying at the manor with Gisele, Gray opens the package he was given as it is revealed to be a book about vampires.

After Leone leaves the house in a trance as she’s found bitten, Gray and Gisele call for a doctor as the mad doctor arrives asking for Gray’s blood to save Leone. Gray gives the blood but remains suspicious about the doctor as does the manor’s old servant (Albert Bras) who reads the vampire book as they both make a chilling discovery. When Gisele suddenly disappears, Gray tries to find her as he has a strange vision about what is happening until the old servant finds a way to stop this curse from happening in order to save the lives of Gisele and Leone.

Stories revolving around the myth of vampires often has a lot of schematics about how to deal with vampires and the mystery that surrounds them. In this film, it revolves around a young occult student who enters this village where there’s a curse surrounding the village as he discovers the world of vampires. It’s a simple premise that doesn’t require a lot of dialogue but a lot of expository inter-title text to reveal more about the world of the vampires. The screenplay is quite minimalist in its presentation and plotting as it is about this young man who enters a strange world where he tries to save a few people and make discoveries about the world of vampires.

The direction of Carl Theodor Dreyer is truly exquisite in its presentation from the way he frames certain scenes to the usage of special effects he creates to showcase a world that is out of the ordinary. Notably in how he presents the strange world of the vampire estate where he creates all sorts of strange shots such as a shadow digging something backwards, ghosts surrounding the place, all sorts of other strange shadows. Dreyer also creates an element of suspense that occurs throughout in some key scenes such as Leone’s escape from the house and the arrival of the village doctor. Even as it leads to an entrancing moment in the third act where Gray imagines the consequences of what could happen as Dreyer maintains this brooding sense of atmosphere to play out the drama. Overall, Dreyer creates a very captivating and hypnotic film that revels into the mysticism of vampires.

Cinematographer Rudolph Mate does amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to create an atmosphere for some of the film‘s chilling moments in its daytime exteriors along with some scenes in the film‘s interiors involving the shadows. Dreyer and co-editor Tonka Taldy do some terrific work in the editing by creating some methodical cuts for the film‘s suspenseful scenes as well as more straightforward edits in the dramatic portions. Art director Herrmann Warm does nice work with the set pieces such as the inn that Gray stays at to the lavish look of the manor as well as the more decayed look of the estate that the doctor lives in.

The special effects work of Henri Armand is incredible for the atmosphere that is created in the way the ghosts look as well as scenes involving the shadows as it‘s truly stunning considering what they had to do at the time. Sound editor Paul Falkenberg does superb work with the sound to capture the atmosphere in the locations to play up the sense of dread that occurs throughout the film. The film’s music by Wolfgang Zeller is brilliant for its flourishing orchestral score that plays out the drama and suspense of the film as Zeller’s arrangements also includes some tender moments in the music.

The film’s excellent ensemble cast features some notable small performances from Georges Boidin as the limping, one-legged soldier, Jane Mora as the nurse, Albert Bras as the resourceful manor servant, N. Babanini as the servant’s wife, Sybille Schmitz as the ailing Leone who is in control the vampire, and Henriette Gerard as the mysterious old lady at the vampire estate. Maurice Schutz is wonderful as the mysterious manor lord who comes to Gray with a message while leaving him instructions to deal with the vampire. Jan Hieronimko is great as the mad doctor who carries this eerie presence that makes the audience aware that there is something not right about him.

Rena Mandel is terrific as the manor lord’s daughter Gisele who tries to deal with the mysterious things that are happening as she helps out Gray. Finally, there’s Nicolas de Gunzburg as Allan Gray where he creates a superb performance as a young man bewildered by the mystery around him as he tries to help out those who are afflicted by the vampire.

Vampyr is a chilling yet evocative film from Carl Theodor Dreyer. It’s a film that explores the world of the vampires from the perspective of a young man who is intrigued by his surroundings and myths. It’s also a film that doesn’t play to the conventional aspects of the vampires by just focusing on those afflicted by the creature. In the end, Vampyr is brooding yet exhilarating film from Carl Theodor Dreyer.

Carl Theodor Dreyer Films: (The President) - (The Parson’s Widow) - Leaves from Satan’s Book - (Love One Another) - (Once Upon a Time) - (Michael (1924 film)) - Master of the House - (Bride of Glomdal) - The Passion of Joan of Arc - Day of Wrath - (Two People) - Ordet - Gertrud

© thevoid99 2012

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