Thursday, July 20, 2017

Der var engang (Once upon a Time)

written & directed by Carl Th Dreyer 
photographed by George Schnéevoigt 
1922, Hillerød Denmark
with Clara Pontoppidan 
& Svend Methling

Though about a third of the film has been lost, the restoration of this great early work by Dreyer expands one’s understanding of the scope his overall lifelong project.  A fairy tale based on a play that freely adapted Hans Christian Andersen’s Svinedrengen (the Swineherd) and Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, the filmmakers ground it firmly in reality, achieving an exceptional level of poetic naturalism, very much in the spirit of Andersen’s tale, though it doesn’t follow his pessimistic conclusion (and it avoids the misogyny of Shakespeare’s immature play as well.)  Along with Vampyr, it is arguably the most beautifully photographed and designed of Dreyer’s films.  Beyond that, it is, as one would expect of one of Carl Th Dreyer’s tales, acted with passion and restraint, and masterfully told.

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