October is classic international movies month. Today’s guest post comes from Marija Nielsen.
Title: Vampyr (VAMPIRE: THE DREAM OF ALLAN GREY)
Writers: Christen Jul & Carl Theodor Dreyer, based on elements from Sheridan Le Fanu’s collection of supernatural stories ‘In a Glass Darkly’
Lead actors: Julian West, Maurice Schutz, Rena Mandel, Jan Hieronimko, Sybille Schmitz, Henriette Gerard
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Plot summary: The young Allan Grey is a student of the occult who arrives at Courtempierre, a village under the curse of a vampire. He is immediately swept up into a mysterious atmosphere of death, strange visions, love and vampirism.
Why I Think This Is A Classic International Movie
To me, silent films are great to study and if I’d had the courage, I would have written about Erich Von Stroheim’s 8-hour version of GREED but this one is a nicer way to round off Classic Movies month and hopefully get people in the mood for some Halloween screen frights as well.
Despite being considered as a classic today, VAMPYR wasn’t that well received upon its release. It is a true curiosity but there is a lot to be said for its qualities notwithstanding the fact that it has influenced numerous filmmakers over the years in some way or another.
Since this movie was inspired by elements from Le Fanu’s literary universe and not a self sufficient story, it does feel a little patched together. Still, what could’ve been an obvious inconvenience here becomes an advantage in the sense that these almost disparate elements make up the overall ambiance of abstract horrors and mysteries. And some of these elements are so different from what we’re used to seeing in vampire movies that they feel almost modern. Dreyer doesn’t focus exclusively on what makes up the traditional vampire — stalking beautiful women, disliking daylight, having no reflection — but instead creates a whole movie world of eeriness in which the vampire is but one element.
Another strength of this film is the fact that it is mostly a silent film meaning that the story is conveyed primarily through its visuals. There are several title cards throughout in the form of pages from a book about vampires and also a few bits of dialogue since the movie was shot with sound but in three different languages, leading Dreyer to opt for something a little easier to deal with. He also chose to film entirely on location and utilized a soft focus photographic technique thus conveying a surreal and dreamlike quality to the overall atmosphere or maybe that should be “nightmarish quality” since the The whole movie is like a a bad dream in that it blends symbols, metaphors and real happenings.
My Favorite Moment In The Movie
There are several: When Allan enters an abandoned house and sees the silhouette of a man with a wooden leg moving along the walls but with no real person casting this shadow. An amazing special effects feat for the time and creepy to behold. The second one is when the old man is dying and he gives a heart locket to Allan. The symbolism of death, life and love is heavy in this scene and very meaningful to the overall story. Another one is when Allan falls asleep after having given his blood and dreams… or does he? And finally, the sequence of Allan becoming a see-through figure himself and discovering his own body lying in a coffin — a hauntingly poetic moment counting among the most striking in the horror genre and adding a whole new level of interpretation to the story.
My Favorite Dialogue In The Movie
This defining moment (the woman referred to is Léone, a woman that Allan has fallen in love with):
Allan: Can’t she be saved?
Doctor: Perhaps. But she needs blood. (beat) And it must be human blood. (beat) Are you willing to give her your own? Come, young man. I’ll draw your blood.
— — — — — — — — — — —
Léone (calling to a nun watching over her): Sister. I’m afraid of dying. I am damned! My God! My God!
Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie
All the weird touches added by Dreyer along the way: a man carrying a scythe who then rings a bell for a boatman to arrive, an angelic weather vane, reflections of people in water except no one’s walking along the shore thus reversing the myth of a vampire having no reflection, cogwheels and sand representing time, images of death in the form of skulls, skeletal hands, poison, paintings…
It’s also very interesting to note that Dreyer doesn’t rely as much on religious symbolism as movies made in more overtly Catholic countries. In Scandinavia, people are largely Protestants and having a strong a belief in God isn’t necessarily a cure for every ailment, not even vampirism. Religious traditions are very much present and shown in a respectful way but one gets a feeling of religion being powerless in this small village where dark forces are at play in plain sight.
To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!
3 Idiots — Abhinav Tiwari
A Prophet — Paul Graunke
Akira — Clay Mitchell
Amarcord — Norma Parena
Amelie — Kevin Curran
Belle Epoque — Melinda Mahaffey
Cinema Paradiso — Traci Nell Peterson
Come Drink With Me — Megaen Kelly
Diabolique — Sherin Nicole
Jules et Jim — Susan Winchell
Kolya — Melinda Mahaffey
Lady Vengeance — David Joyner
Millennium Actress — Chris Neumann
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies — John Henderson
Reprise — Wally Marzano-Lesnevich
Seven Samurai — Will King
The Lives of Others — Paul Graunke
The Tenant — Marija Nielsen
This Man Must Die — Marija Nielsen
Vampyr — Marija Nielsen
Y Tu Mama Tambien — Georgina Hutchinson
NOTE: Thanks, everyone! We hit the daily quota for this series!