Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
Written by Carl Theodor Dreyer from a play by Kaj Monk
Repeat viewing/My DVD collection
#298 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Peter Petersen: Yes. Words, words, you have them all right.
This movie leaves me in awe.
Morten lives on a farm with his three grown sons – Mikkel, Johannes, and Anders – and Mikkel’s wife Inger and young daughter. Inger appears to be the soul of the family, making things right when they go wrong. Morten is a god-fearing man who earlier had succeeded in establishing his form of Lutheranism in the area. Mikkel is a skeptic and adores his pregnant wife. Anders would like to marry the local fundamentalist’s daughter. Johannes has gone mad since his over-exposure to Kierkegaard in theology school and wanders the dunes spreading the gospel, as he believes he is Jesus. The family looks after one another and gently brings Johannes home when he strays.
Morten is adamantly opposed to the idea of Anders marrying the evangelist’s daughter, believing he should stick to his own kind. Inger’s persuasion fails to fully convince him of the match. What does work is when Anders informs him that his intended’s father thinks he is not good enough for his daughter. This causes the old man to march straight into town. The two men almost come to blows over their different forms of Christianity.
The fight is interrupted by a telephone call asking Morten to return home because Inger is in labor and it is not going well. The stage is set for a harrowing third act and a miracle or three.
What a beautiful movie! Dreyer never fails to stun me with his exquisite images. The story is thought-provoking as well. It takes a while to get used to the deadpan acting style, but once one does the film becomes richly rewarding. It is hard to speak about the plot without spoilers and everyone should come to this for the first time knowing as little about it as possible. I keep picking up more and more threads each time I see it. The way Dreyer foreshadows each event in the third act is wonderful. I also missed a rather key point about Johannes’ state of mind at the end when I saw it before. Highly recommended.