- In Majorem Gloriam Dei 6/28/2006 12:00:00 AM by dbdumonteil
Dreyer's pictures are absolutely mind-boggling .We seem to be in a Rembrandt's or Georges de la Tour's painting.He works with his camera the way a painter does with light to create different textures ,highlights and shadows.The scenes inside the minister's house where the world is still the prey of the good/evil concept are in direct contrast to those ,luminous and pastoral,where the lovers try to reinvent life:some kind of Garden of Eden,which the apple tree on the picture has promised.
Anne's passion was doomed from the start:her situation recalls that of Phaedra:both are pure even in sin,both are victims of an implacable heredity.Even before Martin's appearance ,the over-possessive mother leaves her no chance at all.
Remarkable sequences: the old woman's "trial",her tortures,her screams (I'm not afraid of Heaven or Hell ,I'm afraid to die!" Her death at the stake ,with Ann looking through the window pane ,and realizing it's an omen.The children singing terrifying canticles about God's wrath.
The minister beginning to wonder if his faith is strong enough and the wife's infamous revelation.
The nature which was a refuge, the only sunlight the lovers could get,becomes misty ,almost dark,as the young man has lost all his hopes and illusions."No,Ann says ,it all begins" It's the seventeenth century and Ann is too ahead of her time.She and the old woman are the real human beings in the movie:the minister and his sinister mother are already dead when the film begins as much as the dying man he comforts in his last hour .Martin has got himself tangled up in remorse,superstitions (You've got a magic power) and if life means rebellion and fight ,his surrender leaves him a living dead.
The old woman ,the "witch" ,is afraid to die,which is human:Jeanne D'Arc herself,another "witch" which inspired CT Dreyer had her moments of doubt and fear,and she abjured to save her life .
"Vredens Dag" can still grab today's audience.This is a must.
- One of Dreyer's (sound) masterpieces 1/19/2006 12:00:00 AM by Quinoa1984
Carl Theodor Dreyer, as I can figure from seeing just a few of his films, is consistently the director to get me feeling extremely emotional. This one, Day of Wrath, and especially his quintessential The Passion of Joan of Arc, somehow got me to the point of tears. Not to the point of stopping the film(s) to sob, but in feeling such a strong, endearing connection to the characters (through the actor(s) playing them) through the doomed feeling over the films that got to me. Films dealing with questions of faith and religion have fascinated me for a while from the likes of Bergman, Bunuel and even Scorsese, but Dreyer taps particularly well into the plights of those to be sacrificed in the name of 'the Lord'. At times I tried to put aside my own feelings about God and religion and the like, yet it kept on sort of dragging in along with it. By getting right up into the stink-pit of hypocrisy and sheer, un-wielding judgment that religion casts upon people (in the two main cases I've seen from him women), it speaks past the realm of a religious fable and goes into the realm of the universal. Day of Wrath is as much a story of witch-hunting as it is of the doom of the outsider, of what a soul who is circumspect in centuries before would be put down as if on complete call from high. Conscience from within, who knows.
Dreyer centers his story circa 17th century Denmark around Bishop Absalom (Alber Hoeberg, in a mostly haunted performance), his mother, his son Martin, and his recent wife Anne (Lisbeth Movin, not quite the face of Falconetti, but still stands powerful on its own). The Bishop deals with questions of faith, but more-so his own feelings of possible death and dread, following the catching and sacrificing of Herlofs Marte (Anna Svierkier). There is an affair between son and wife, which leads to another incredible turning point, not the least without the suspicious, un-bending old mother. Dreyer deals with the story of this family very simply and delicately, yet with a certain razor's edge that you know may be coming around the bend. Like in the times he filmed this, circa Nazi-Germany dominated world war 2, it's hardly the safest, especially to those who don't conform to certain ways. And then it all leads back to God, and love, or lack thereof.
Dreyer strikes very early on with the emotional powerhouse moments. Svierkier was the perfect choice to play the part of Herlofs Marte. Such humanity comes through her performance, as an old woman who says outright that she's not a witch ("I don't fear Heaven or Hell, I fear only Death"), is given the brush-off by the Bishop despite her pleas. Like with 'Passion', Dreyer ends up getting far more of a moving scene involving the torture of another person just by the mere suggestion of it, a hint even. He does it with audio this time, as opposed to a montage of images, and it's just as effective (a camera pans across a room of the Church's watchers, so to speak). While it's arguable if the scenes involving her are the most arresting emotionally- the plight of the everyday folk- the latter scenes bringing to a head the tragedy of Absalom, Martin, and Anne, doesn't lose its strength either.
This is kept up by Dreyer almost in spite of itself. He and his cameraman Karl Andersson keep a deliberate pacing in the film, a kind of aesthetic in tune likely with his silent-film days. It's a story not rushed at all, and gives some of the most beautiful shots in any of his films; the scenes of Martin and Anne by the riverside, in complete silhouette; the constant usage of medium shots still capturing the full outreach of the performers; the precious close-ups bringing forth his precise, masterful use of light and dark. The more I thought about this style, the more I appreciated it afterward, even when considering it was different than 'Passion' or 'Vampyr'. It lets the scenes sink in for the viewer, to the point of going along on this dark, fateful journey. And it also got me thinking- as I thought with Bergan's films till I saw interviews- about Dreyer and his own relationship to religion in regards to his films. The questioning is never out there in your face; it's in-between the lines of what is spoken between sinner and judger, and what it ends up feeding into society. Absalom may not be a bad man, but as a soul with his life into judging others, ones that might love him stray away.
It leaves me with questions that leave bitter, difficult and long answers, which is really what the best filmmakers tend to do for me sometimes, though at the same time always keeping the dramatic &/or just theatrical aspects of the film in enough control to really hit home. Superb work.
- like a trip back in time 2/9/2013 12:00:00 AM by cafescott
(BTW, I liked MisterWhiplash's 1/19/2006 comments.)
Dreyer's "Day of Wrath" is a terrifying trip back to the early seventeenth century, only without modern conveniences like motor vehicles to get one the Heck out of a crazy community on a perpetual witch hunt. It is a brave film made under military occupation. It depicts life under totalitarianism. It is slowly paced, but not boring.
The sequences up to and including the pyre scene are very moving; and certainly have inspired other films.
The principal story revolves around a family of four. There's Anne as the young wife of the aging pastor; Absalon, the pastor; Merete, the pastor's mother and Martin the pastor's son. Anne is hated by Merete, one of the most unreasonable figures in the history of cinema. Unfortunately, Merete is well represented by the rest of the community, which is perpetually on the lookout for witches. So, Anne naturally fears she will be denounced.
The pastor, psychopathic by today's standards, doesn't satisfy Anne in any way. So, Anne seeks it with Martin, at the risk of giving Merete some food for fodder. Dreyer depicts Anne's love very romantic. There's a scene on a rowboat, in a corn field, by the water. Each location is pleasant, hopeful, and a complete contrast to home life with Absalon.
Dreyer's film achieves greatness as he opens the scant possibility that maybe Anne is really a witch after all. In so doing, he takes us emotionally back to the seventeenth century and has us judge her, just as we've seen the grim-faced clergy members do before. He is making us think like members of the Inquisition!
This is a complex, brilliant movie made under Nazi occupation about totalitarianism in a parochial, seventeenth century community. It is a miracle it was made at all, and certainly inspires great interest during today's troubled times.
- Are You A Good Witch Or A Bad Witch? Which? 7/7/2011 12:00:00 AM by GManfred
Just borrowing a phrase with my summary, and not trying to trivialize "Day Of Wrath", an extraordinarily powerful film. I think we in the States are not used to films as masterfully done and as impactful as this one.
In the 17th century - Europe as well as in the States - witchcraft and witch hunts were all the rage, an age of ignorance during the Age Of Enlightment. How quaint and simplistic a notion that someone could be a witch just by anothers accusation! Director Carl Dreyer brings this idea home to us in this methodical masterpiece in harrowing detail. His story centers on a young Danish woman who goes from mouse-wife to temptress to doomed heroine. She is surrounded throughout the picture by hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness and in the end she succumbs to Christian ideals, the same ones she had been struggling to suppress for most of the picture.
You can watch until your eyes drop out and you won't find a scene not executed to perfection in all departments. I am not familiar with the actors but they were outstanding down to the smallest part. The pacing, like a Bergman film, is slow and deliberate, much the same way it would have been lived out in the 1600's. The Inquisition-type scene involving the old accused woman is even slower still, making the scene all the more horrifying, even though the torture is in the viewers mind and not on screen. Note how slowly the camera pans around the chamber of judges.
There are so many scenes worth mentioning, but it's best to see the picture for yourself if you haven't. It is an unforgettable treatment of nasty, unsavory material.
- 9/10 9/2/2004 12:00:00 AM by desperateliving
One of Dreyer's most accessible works; it has a dramatic story (witch hunting!) and still investigates the characters' morality and their relation to the world they exist in. This film is about the difference between life and the soul (the life that you live now and the soul of post-life, and the soul that fills your life as you live it), those at the stake and those on trial in the home, and the spells we cast on each other. When an accused witch confesses to being one to hopefully save her life (which doesn't happen) she threatens with witchery the man who won't save her. Obviously witches don't exist, but why, when sentenced to death, would she suddenly say she has a witch's power? To frighten him? Because she believes that she must be a witch, if others think she is? Or just to scare him? It's not clear. This is Dreyer's most overtly sexual film, where sex is a weapon (that eventually leads to a death); we see the relationship between the young girl, Anne, who falls in love with her much older husband's son (the same actor who played Johannes in Dreyer's next great film, "Ordet"), and, by the end of the film, we see that she has cast her spell on him, and is herself to be accused of being a witch.
Dreyer's films, which got more difficult as he got older, don't seem to have a date; certainly period pieces like this exist in a certain time, but put "Day of Wrath" next to "Gertrud" and you'd hardly notice a twenty year difference -- or few hundred years difference, in terms of the setting. And yet Dreyer's sense of place is almost unmatched, largely because of his simplicity: the costumes seem almost amateur, the acting is theatrical -- not so much in style, but in presentation (the actors seem to have been told where to stand and when). His films exist purely within this world he created, not minding the styles of the day; he's the truest of auteurs. He is also one of the great directors of women, and here elicits excellent performances from his entire cast (keeping in mind the date of production) but especially those of the two mothers in the film, the one who is put to the stake, and the other who is the mother to Anne's much older husband.
Despite the heavy seriousness of the religious beliefs in the film, Dreyer isn't religiously driven. He is driven by the soul, but these films are not the works of a fundamentalist. Dreyer looks at the actions of the characters, which are, at their worst, adultery and murder, and uses them as a moral, spiritual, and personal crisis in which to look for nothing less than meaning in life. 9/10