Carl Theodor Dreyer is one of the most revered film directors in the history of world cinema. His signature style is best described as ‘austere’ and ‘spiritual’, with camera and actors using restricted movements and actions. The often harsh lighting starkly sets actors against simple white interiors; and the viewer tends to focus on the changes that flit across actors’ faces.
As fellow director Henri-Georges Clouzot mentions in the feature length documentary that accompanies these films, My Métier, Dreyer’s style suggests a ‘transcendental’ realm in cinema, an awareness that beyond the imagery itself there is a certain hidden ‘quality x’ to which the imagery is referring. Whether you buy that or not, there’s no denying that Ordet, Day of Wrath and Gertrud are very striking pieces of cinema. Ordet especially, with its flooring mix of everyday life, reason, madness and miracle, needs to be seen to be believed.
There are four feature films and seven shorter, public information films in the set – as well as lots of other goodies:
Master of the House (1925) / Day of Wrath (1943) / Ordet (1955) / Gertrud (1964)
Good Mothers (1942) / The Fight Against Cancer (1947) / The Village Church (1947) / They Caught the Ferry (1948) / Thorsvaldsen (1949) / Storstrøm Bridge (1950) / A Castle Within a Castle (1955)
Master of the House was a new one on me – a silent-era domestic comedy about a bullying patriarch eventually put in his place by the women of the household. It doesn’t look much like the severe films from later in Dreyer’s career; but the tone marks it out as an intriguing and unique film.
The public information films are well worth a look too: several of them look as beautiful as anything Dreyer shot; and who would have thought Dreyer would make a film about the dangers of breaking the road speed limit!
- Newly remastered High Definition presentations of all Dreyer films
- Alternative English and Danish intertitled versions of Master of the House
- Master of the House Restoration Demonstration (2010, 4 mins): split-screen comparison
- Alternative presentation of Day of Wrath with English opening and closing sequences
- Day of Wrath audio commentary with Dreyer expert Casper Tybjerg
- The Cross (Tag Gallagher, 2009, 20 mins): video essay on Day of Wrath
- Ordet Og Lyset (Helga Theilgaard, 2001, 35 mins): interview with cinematographer Henning Bendtsen
- Carl Th. Dreyer und Gertrud (Christiane Habich, Reinhard Wulf, 1994, 29 mins): documentary featurette
- Carl Th. Dreyer Interviewed by Julian Jebb (1965, 8 mins): rare BBC archive film of Dreyer
- Carl Th. Dreyer – My Métier (Torben Skjødt Jensen, 1995, 93 mins): acclaimed feature-length documentary
- My Métier interview outtakes (1995, 80 mins): in-depth interviews with Dreyer collaborators
- Jørgen Roos archive (1949-65, 8 mins): a selection of Dreyer-related archival film material
- DR Danish television archive (1965-68, 13 mins): rare Dreyer footage and interviews with collaborators
- An Introduction to the Films of Carl Th. Dreyer by Henning Camre (2003, 10 mins, audio only)
- An Interview with Ove Brusendorff of the Danish Film Museum (date unknown, 16 mins, audio only)
- Booklet essays by Casper Tybjerg, Philip Kemp, Ilona Halberstadt, Philip Horne, Tom Milne and Nick Wrigley
Review by Colin Dibben
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The Carl Theodor Dreyer Collection is out on Blu-ray only on 20 April.