Very loosely based on J. Sheridan LeFanu’s “Carmilla,” VAMPYR (1932) has a young stopping in a rural village where he encounters animated shadows, sinister doctors, clocks without faces, suicidal young women and an elderly woman is more than she seems. Carl Th. Dreyer’s film is very strange, both as a vampire film (only one scene with any blood) and as any sort of film—as the commentary track points out, it’s full of weird visuals like a guy just walking around with a scythe, and strange noises coming from off-stage. Not everyone’s cup of tea but I like it. This edition was a reconstruction recapturing many elements lost in previous releases — I’m pretty sure the DVD I saw didn’t have the details of the evil doctor’s final fate. “It must be human blood. Will you give her yours?”
THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (1928) is Dreyer’s other famous work (also in a reconstructed edition), relying heavily on faces against a white-wall background to provide the drama. Joan’s anguish and religious ecstasy as she insists her wearing men’s clothes and fighting for France were God’s will; the looks of the clerics interrogating her, including malevolent scowls and false smiles. More powerful than I expected. “I know the English will be chased out of France — except those that die here.”
At three hours, THE WILD PEAR TREE (2018) didn’t keep me glued to the screen but it did keep me watching all the way to the end. This low-key Turkish film has an aspiring author return to his small-town home after college, annoy a local celebrity writer by pushing for hints on how to get published and look down his nose at his hapless compulsive-gambler father. Well-done but I’d have been happier with it at two hours. “I thought artists were supposed to oppose everything?”
#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.