Vampyr (1932)

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  • directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
  • starring Nicolas de Gunzburg, Rena Mandel, Sybille Schmitz, Jan Hieronimko, Maurice Schutz
  • A traveler obsessed with the supernatural visits an old inn and finds evidence of vampires.

“Dust thou art. And unto dust shalt thou return.”

Of the films I’ve been working through for Halloween, Vampyr struck me as having the most in common with the horror genre of modern times in terms of its slow-burning pace and sophisticated approach to terror. That isn’t to say there is much specific horror to speak of though. My personal interpretation of the film is that somehow Dreyer had accomplished the ultimate trick. Through endless suggestions of bizarre or terrifying situations and the thick obscurity of fog, I ended up feeling like I had seen so much more action and blatant acts than I actually did. In other words, the foreboding was so expertly handled, that it never needed to amount to anything for me to be enthralled in the nightmarish mood of it all.

This was the first sound film by Dreyer and, despite a few eerie tricks played with echoes, it appears that he remained more interested in images, mood, lighting, and effects than he did exploring the new opportunities ushered in by the innovation of sound. His characters rarely talk in conversations. Instead they utter the slightest amount of dialogue that would have up to that point been shown on title cards, although Dreyer did end up using a ton of those too. This coupled with Dreyer’s approach to casting–most of the cast was made up of non-actors, including de Gunzburg who requested the lead role after agreeing to finance the film—signals that his main priority with Vampyr was not letting much of anything get in the way of the unsettling story and the gorgeous, haunting imagery.

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About classixquest
all the things I should have seen

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