Monday, August 11, 2008

Kulture Korner: 10 Reasons (At Least!) Why You Must Immediately Purchase Criterion Collection's New Vampyr DVD

What a treat! Criterion Collection has just released a superb, deluxe 2-DVD (with book! And booklet!) set dedicated to Carl Dreyer's Vampyr, the incredible, mesmerizing 1932 mood piece which makes Tod Browning's Dracula look like the stagey, dull melodrama it is. The best way to convey its hypnotic and creepy qualities is to post many stills, but they only tell half the story. Early sound films tend to be incredibly static because the ungainly, newfangled cameras had to be bolted to the ground. Dreyer, however, shot the film with silent cameras, and his picture never stops moving: the camera pans, and then reverses, revealing completely unexpected and disorienting vistas. The film looks backwards to both silent horror films like Nosferatu and avant-garde oddities like Dali's Un Chien Andalou, but also forward to Eraserhead (the film it most resembles) and the abstract films of Stan Brakhage.

Dreyer was less concerned with telling a story than with creating a mood of creeping dread:

Shadows detach and move independently from their sources:

Skulls and skeletons abound:

Is it a dream? Is it real? It doesn't matter:

Each and every screen composition is perfect:

The "hero" witnesses his own interment from inside the coffin in an extended dream (?) sequence which makes no sense but that you'll never forget:

When Dreyer decides to get back to storytelling, it's exciting and nerve-wracking:

Although the film is filled with ancient superstition, the director was an avid modernist:

Evil is vanquished in an unforgettable denouement:

Oh, sure, you'll have nightmares for weeks afterwards, but they'll be the most beautiful nightmares ever.


karenzipdrive said...

I thought I'd bever see the day when you posted something in which I do not share your enthusiasm.
At last I can abandon my lesbian-crush-on-the-gay-guy and move on with my life.

However, in that same vein, I just finished a novel called "The Chatelet" translated from the French that deals with crime, filthy French prisons, rotted flesh, rank odors and all that fun stuff from Paris in the 1700's.
The lead detective is a handsome young Frenchman who endures all that stinky stuff with great elan. I think he might be your type.

Princess Sparkle Pony said...

Karen, did I forget to mention it's a female vampire with vague lesbian undertones?

Karen Zipdrive said...

Oh no!
Every time I try to snap out of the spell of Princess Sparkle Pony, SHE REELS ME RIGHT BACK IN.

Madduane said...

sold! and thanks, Princess...

dguzman said...

Holy film school, Princess! Nosferatu gave me nightmares, but I'm IN!

Princess Sparkle Pony said...

Nosferatu is a wonderful, wonderful film, but Vampyr borrows ideas from it and goes much further. So creepy!

Anonymous said...

You're so right, Princess.

But I'm left to wonder why Ordet was such a crashing bore, by contrast. Granted, the films were made more than 20 years apart, but they seemed the work of different directors.

Princess Sparkle Pony said...

Gertrude is also pretty boring, but gorgeously designed and directed.

On the other hand, Day of Wrath is absolutely amazing.

TeleFrank said...

Brilliant. Your analysis is mesmerizing in it brevity.

Now do Liquid Sky!