Thursday, 18 June 2015

Vampyr (1932, Carl Theodor Dreyer)

The wind of the wings of madness

Scoff at the seemingly pretentious quote from Baudelaire above if you will, but this mere "horror film" more than deserves to be held up beside poetry and art.  Carl Dreyer, director of The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) and Day of Wrath (1943) takes on the supernatural with an artists' eye and paints us a splendidly eerie tableau.

Traveler David Gray (or Allan Gray, depending upon which version the viewer is watching) arrives at a remote inn, wherein he experiences terrifying apparitions - including a long and haunting sequence of his own premature burial, Poe-style - including spectral visions of dancing shadows filmed at double speed to give a genuinely unsettling effect. Gray is drawn into an adventure in the realms of the uncanny as a rich family are predated upon by a scary old vampiric woman and her doctor henchman.

The story of the film (supposedly lifted from LeFanu's Carmilla via "Through A Glass Darkly") is slight, yet raises an atmosphere as the young girl in the nearby ch√Ęteau finds herself preyed upon by her own sister, newly recruited to the ranks of the undead. Gray remains a curiously passive hero, as much an observer of events unfolding as the viewer, and the film's climax - wherein the villain is suffocated by the pure whiteness of the flour in the mill - may not make total narrative sense, yet we are here in the realm of the fairytale, and the purity of white overcoming the darkness seems in this context much more acceptable than it otherwise might be.

Class thru a glass.


  1. I've decided to ask for this as a birthday gift as it looks amazing, but I think it would make a nice present. Is this the one with the Del Toro commentary?

  2. In my experience, when you feel the cold winds of the wings of madness brushing against your cheek, it's probably wise to talk to a sympathetic friend. But suffocating a baddie with the ingredients of a Victoria sponge is also good.

  3. You won't regret it Sophie - it's an absolutely brilliant film. And yes, Mr The Bull is great on his very enthusiastic commentary.

    Lucy - your recipe related remark (ooh, alliteration!) has made me laugh and triggered a headache. So :), but :(.