Vampyr Screen 19 articles



Vampyr Poster
  • Gorgeous, but I don't know what to do with it. Only at the end, when Dreyer explicitly outlined his scheme--machinery versus trees, man versus nature--did I understand what he was getting at, and by then it struck me as a bit too symbolic. His style--long pans, minimal acting, use of subjectivity--effectively juggles the real and unreal, but there's a part of me that doesn't think the source material is particularly suited by it.

  • The important thing about the film is that Dreyer _chose_ to make it, since it is usually dismissed by historians as an unimportant, technically indifferent horror film that Dreyer ran off between the high peaks of La passion de Jeanne d'Arc and Day of Wrath. In fact, it is undoubtedly one of the key works in his career, and nothing could be more quintessentially Dreyer than the introductory title...

  • When Dreyer wrote, "We desire the cinema to open a door onto the world of the inexplicable," he might have been thinking of his dark classic VAMPYR (1930)... [It] remains unlike anything seen before or since. The audience reaction at its premiere was prophetic: to this day, people find VAMPYR either eerily hypnotic or wildly silly. In either case, though, it can be neither forgotten nor dismissed. Dreyer has opened a door onto a world of harsh, haunting vision.

  • The greatness of Carl Dreyer’s first sound film (1932, 82 min.) derives partly from its handling of the vampire theme in terms of sexuality and eroticism and partly from its highly distinctive, dreamy look, but it also has something to do with Dreyer’s radical recasting of narrative form. While never less than mesmerizing, it confounds conventions for establishing point of view and continuity, inventing a narrative language all its own.

  • The effect of this odd, transitional style is thoroughly disorienting and therefore very much in keeping with the subject matter of the film as a whole. Nearly all of Dreyer’s films concern the cinematic representation of interiority (through camera movement, lighting, close-ups, sound, and especially performance), but Vampyr is surely one of the most extreme, expressionistic examples.

  • In developing this cryptic, often blackly comic film, Dreyer and cinematographer Rudolph Mate were inspired a flour mill wreathed in dusty clouds they passed while on a train, a sight that inspired the finale and the hazy, washed-out visuals produced by false light shone on the lens. Contributing was Nosferatu’s designer Hermann Warm, and like that film, Vampyrshares an appealing rejection of studio-created atmosphere for careful manipulation of real settings.

  • An ambiguous, cryptic, and at times mind-boggling hybrid of German Expressionist motifs and early horror film conventions, this eccentric film offers an original, and many would say unique cinematic perspective on the psychology of terror and the elusiveness of clarity, both existential and empirical.

  • Dreyer takes one crucial scene—in which the female victim of a vampire half transforms and is almost overcome with bloodlust but unable to go through with biting the hero. It is Dreyer, however, who highlights the erotic as well as the terrifying aspect of this scene—thus founding an entire subgenre of vampire movie, in which the kiss of the vampire is a tantalizing promise as much as a disease-ridden threat.

  • It is a different kind of poetic sublime [from Ordet]. But with vampires, too, it is the pathos of immortality that moves us most, when we admit to being moved—the restlessness of their undead souls, the sadness of their longing to be done with it all, even as they feed on the blood of live mortals.

  • Using fractured, often mismatched cuts, and a transection of the space between shadow and light to create an atmosphere of imbalance and dislocation, Dreyer also suggests shifting points of view and an inconcreteness of place that reinforce the viewer's consciousness of the film's construction and permeable logic (an ambiguity that is also signified by the hero's surname).

  • The bridge between Joan of Arc and Day of Wrath, Vampyr is Dreyer’s most radical film—maybe one of my dozen favorite movies by any director. It’s also a movie that, as an early talkie, was made in three different versions and has long languished in the public domain. Newly reissued in a deluxe package that includes the J. Sheridan Le Fanu novella on which it was based, the Criterion edition offers the restored German version—more complete and looking better than I’ve ever seen it.

  • Dreyer's first sound film benefits greatly from silent film visual language—iris shots, double exposures, expressionistic lighting, claustrophobic set design, and a fluid, incredibly mobile use of camera movement. Somehow it is an entirely graceful film and languid. It feels not like a film of a dream, but a film which _is_ a dream.

  • A film whose nature is so disembodying that during the production the director himself asked crew members “Who am I? Who am I?” Tasked to give a brief presentation on the film to the class, we opted to employ video essay techniques to enable us to probe the film in as concrete terms as possible in order to grasp how it yields its uncanny effects.

  • Dreyer takes what so many others have played for cheap horror and crafts a deeply unsettling cinematic nightmare. Vampyr operates on its own strange logic, and uses every trick in the book to keep its audience constantly off balance. Eight decades later, it's as haunting as ever, with only a handful of other films (Hour of the Wolf, Dementia, Begotten) even approaching its ghastly power.

  • In cinema, the possibility of horror is more unnerving than its actualization, particularly if a filmmaker is able to dramatize the precise moment when the banal becomes uncanny. In 1932's Vampyr, Carl Theodor Dreyer draws such a transition out, in ebbs and flows, over the course of the film's running time. Adverse to makeup and other overtly specialized effects, Dreyer often forces us to scrutinize an image for its subtle notes of wrongness.

  • When the pull of mortality is imprinted on every frame, nothing less than the most uncanny camerawork will do: A tangible slipperiness suffuses the screen, dollying and panning that distend and dissolve space, a symphony of figures gliding in and out of rooms, up and down staircases.

  • The richness of Rudolph Maté’s black-and-white cinematography and the poetry of Dreyer’s craft makes the film’s treatment of death transcendent, though it remains firmly gripped by the fear of the unknown.

  • The [sparse dialogue] makes the lines cling to you all the more, even as they’re subservient to the visuals. Dreyer, a former writer of title cards himself, lets those and the shots of the book gifted Allan by the old man (Die Seltsame Geschichte Der Vampyr by Paul Bonnat) do the bulk of the storytelling work, freeing him and Maté to play with movement, light and shadows.

  • Vampyr is really two movies: the first, a linear vampire tale that can be resolved easily by a stake in the heart, and the second, an eerie cinematic poem about the spirituality of contemplating death. And it's a testament to Dreyer's interests that the second film—the stronger one—so smothers the first that audiences were confused. A classic of arthouse horror, a literal journey through darkness towards the light.

More Links