Ordet (1955)

Ordet Movie Review………………………………………………………………

Ordet Movie Review

Ordet is a 1955 Danish drama film directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer. It is a disappointing film from a usually great director.

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I believe a lot of little miracles happen secretly.

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Ordet Movie Review………………………………………………………………

I really liked the plot in Ordet. It is a fascinating examination of religion and the power of spiritual belief. The ending, although definitely out there, was intriguing and ultimately quite powerful. Some of the other scenes such as the famous poster sequence in the fields were also memorable in imagery and quite fascinating.

But it is ultimately just solid and never great mainly because of the pacing. The film is dreadfully slow which troubled me and thus I was rarely engaged in the storyline thoroughly. It takes its time to get there owing to a slow start and the final third, no matter how powerful, still came too late in the game.

The acting is great, but the character development should have been better. They are solidly developed, but not great which they should have been as this is obviously a chamber piece which needs the characters more than anything else.

Although I really disliked its sometimes overly static approach with too much dialogue and not powerful but somewhat not essential and lacking dialogue, I liked a couple of quotes and lines nonetheless and I really liked the visuals here. Whenever the film went out of the house, it was great to watch and quite fascinating. It of course benefits from an interesting take in terms of the cinematography.

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Ordet Movie Review………………………………………………………………

Ordet definitely looked interesting and was superbly shot. It was also really well directed and it was all around great in terms of the technical aspects. However, the script, though definitely sophisticated, was never as well utilized in the execution which felt disappointing and led to a film being more of a visual and interesting than a truly thought-provoking and spiritual experience. That all led to Ordet being a solid, but in the end very disappointing and dull movie. Carl Theodor Dreyer disappointed me here and ‘The Passion of Joan Arc’ and ‘Day of Wrath’ were infinitely better.

Ordet is a solid, but disappointing film. The direction from Carl Theodor Dreyer is expectedly strong, the cinematography is inspired with some of the shots being quite intriguing and the film is clever and very interesting, but because it was so slow paced and lacked focus, it never utilized its premise particularly well and ended up being more of an intriguing than a truly spiritual experience.

My Rating – 3.5

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Häxan (1922)

Häxan Movie Review……………………………………………………………….

Häxan Movie Review

Häxan is a 1922 Swedish/Danish documentary horror silent film directed by Benjamin Christensen. It is a pretty good, intriguing experiment.

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Poor little hysterical witch!

In the middle ages you were in conflict with the church.

Now it is with the law

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Häxan Movie Review……………………………………………………………….

It is  a study of how superstition and the misunderstanding of diseases and mental illness could lead to the hysteria of the witch-hunts. Because I have always been interested in this particular subject matter, I found this movie to be quite fascinating at times. That is not to say that it is without its problems and there are many on which I will elaborate later, but the film is mostly a successful and definitely admirable experiment as rarely have I seen a film quite like this one.

It is a mix of documentary and horror which is, needless to say, quite authentic and interesting. I loved its distinctive visual style and how well thought out it is. It explains you almost everything you need to know about witch-hunts and the second half in particular is quite engaging.

But the problem with Häxan lies in its first half. Yes, the documentary approach here isn’t the greatest. And even though the mix of fiction and documentary is interesting, it definitely felt odd at times and tonally weird. Those passages where they explain this subject were overlong and filled with too many intertitles and not enough images. Some of the imagery was quite striking, but I still would have preferred to have seen real footage or fictionalized footage that is.

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Häxan Movie Review……………………………………………………………….

Häxan is exceptionally well made and crafted. The problem is that it is just never as entertaining as I hoped it would have been given its fascinating subject matter and it disappointed me a little overall, but the direction from Benjamin Christensen is excellent and some scenes are just so memorable. And the special effects are simply outstanding and so revolutionary for its time period. In the end, even though it isn’t the best that foreign cinema of the twenties has to offer, it is still so intriguing and different that I admired it a lot.

Häxan definitely is tonally odd, it isn’t as engaging as it could have been and the mix of documentary and horror is weird, but that mix is still authentic and very interesting, some of the imagery here is quite striking, it deals with its interesting subject matter really well and it is mostly exceptionally well made and visually magnificent. It has its flaws, but it is certainly one of the most unique silent films.

My Rating – 4

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Day of Wrath (1943)

Day of Wrath Review

Day of Wrath Movie Review

Day of Wrath is a 1943 historical drama film directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer and starring Lisbeth Movin. It is such a great, atmospheric and very intriguing picture.

It is set in 1623 and follows a young woman named Anne who is married to an old pastor, but is in love with his son. The pastor has just sent a woman to death on the charge of being a witch, but Anne’s mother was also accused of witchcraft before her death.  The film has a great subject matter that always fascinated me and it explores it very well. The beginning is a bit slow, but the sequences with Herlof’s Marte are so good with the burning scene being very intense.

And although the second half does not deal with the theme of witchcraft as much as the first half, I still loved the second half because it is such a great family drama with excellent conflicts and one extremely memorable scene. I am of course talking about the scene where Anne says to Absalon that she wishes him dead and confesses his love to Martin. The scene ends with Absalon dying and you are left pondering whether she truly is a witch and cursed him or he died due to a shock of betrayal. The logical and more likely answer is the latter one. However, Absalon says that he, while away, experienced “the touching of death itself” at the exact time when Anne talked to Martin and confessed having wished his father dead. That is a such a strong evidence towards her actually being a witch which was such an interesting development that I really hadn’t seen coming.

But Day of Wrath remains ambiguous in its storyline and beautifully so as this is one of the finest examples of ambiguity done right and to the fullest advantage to the film’s storytelling. It works perfectly because the entire film is fueled with such a mysterious, eerie tone to it that it grabs you and never lets go. I was enthralled by the film from start to finish and though it might be slow to some, this was to me a perfect example of a slow movie that is not just slow for the sake of being slow, but for the sake of creating tension. And it was always very involving to me and the atmosphere in particular is just phenomenal.

I liked all of the characters despite them not being as fully realized as I wanted them to be. Absalom is excellent and his conflict and evident doom led to such a tragic character. Martin was also good and the relationship between him and Anne is well realized. Anne is excellent and such a mysterious, very well utilized character. But I found Merete to be a problematic character. Yes, she is interesting, but still typical with her hatred towards Anne having been seen countless times before. And she never really said anything truly of substance and meaning which bothered me.

The acting is really good with Lisbeth Movin being particularly good as she wonderfully played that mysterious nature of the protagonist. The directing from Carl Theodor Dreyer is terrific and he is such a great director. Day of Wrath isn’t on the level of greatness of his ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’, but it is still a film with similar subject matter and with a similar intense approach to it.

I loved the natural scenery as well and the cinematography is really good in this film. The dialogue is also pretty good and some lines are memorable and the film is always slow, but so dramatic regardless. It is wonderfully edited with never a dull or rushed moment and, as I said before, the pacing is slow, but to me that is the strength here as it is fitting for this kind of film. I loved how the film ended as well. I also loved that it was small in scope and focused on just one family as that led to a much more mature and intimate drama. I just wish that the beginning was more interesting and that Merete was better utilized, but this is for the most part such an eerie, wonderfully executed film that is one of the best movies of 1943.

Day of Wrath has its problems, but it is mostly a terrific film that benefits from some outstanding atmosphere with the film being very creepy and sometimes intense. This Danish drama from excellent Carl Theodor Dreyer also has such an intriguing story, a great intentionally slow pace and such a great mysterious tone to it. It is very ambiguous too and it has some incredible scenes that really stick with you. It is in the end a great atmospheric picture that is a must see classic.

My Rating – 4.5

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