Friday, 13 April 2012

Vampyr

Vampyr; mystery, Germany, 1932; D: Carl Theodor Dreyer, S: Julian West, Maurice Shutz, Rena Mandel

A young lad, Allan Gray, arrives to Courtempierre and spends the night there in a tavern. Awakened by an old man who entered into his room, Gray goes outside and observes shadows walking across the meadow. He arrives at a castle where the lord was killed, whereas one of his daughters, Leone, is sick because she is possessed by a vampire. The other daughter, Gisele, falls in love with Gray. Eliminating the vampire woman in her grave as well as her associate, the village doctor, Leone is cured and saved. 

Carl Theodor Dreyer's first sound film, fantasy mystery "Vampyr", suffered from occasional clumsy application of the sound into the story and received mixed reviews upon its release, since many critics felt a little bit cheated while watching this "horror without horror", basically an experimental art film, yet the film eventually advanced into a cult classic. Similarly like Murnau's "Nosferatu", even Dreyer here played with a (back then) experimental visual style, which gives the hermetic, dream-like Dracula story spark (a shadow on the field of a man digging earth filmed in reverse (!); the legendary sequence where Gray's "ghost" is observing his own body in a coffin, and later on his own POV is seen from the coffin - with a glass window - getting carried out from the building into the exterior; camera filter and special lighting were used to give certain scenes an eerie look). Dreyer himself allegedly said that he wanted to create "dream like state on film" which explains numerous abstract, illogical and subconscious moments, which is why "Vampyr" - together with Bunuel's "An Andalusian Dog" - made a massive influence on Lynch, Jodorowsky and surreal cinema in general. The pace of the film is problematic by today's standards - the middle part offers no visual attractions; has too many empty walks; the characters are deliberately underdeveloped; the ending is pointless - and is rather overrated as a whole, but still a very good piece of early brave cinema.

Grade:+++

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