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Carl Theodor Dreyer (Widescreen/Full Screen) [4 Discs]

Henrik Malberg , Emil Hass Christensen , Carl Theodor Dreyer , Torben Skj°dt Jensen    Unrated   DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Following the release of Carl Th. Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, The Criterion Collection renews its commitment to this major director with a Special Edition box set of his sound films, Day of Wrath, Ordet, and Gertrud. Each is an intense exploration of the clash between individual desire and social expectations, with Dreyer's famously perfectionist attention to detail shining throughout. With brand new digital transfers supervised by Gertrud director of photography Henning Bendtsen, the Criterion Collection is proud to present these Dreyer masterpieces on DVD for the first time. The fourth disc in the set presents the masterful 1995 documentary on Dreyer by Danish filmmaker Torben Skødt Jensen, Carl Th. Dreyer-My Métier. Extensive interviews with collaborators and actors provide fresh insight into the life and work of one of cinema's great masters.


When asked to describe his work, Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer said that film should present "truth filtered through an artist's mind, truth liberated from unnecessary detail." This collection of Dreyer's three major sound features demonstrates the director's rigorous commitment to that idea.

Day of Wrath (1943)--filmed during the Nazi occupation of Denmark--is set in a 17th-century village where the fear of witchcraft and the repression of human passions lead to tragedy. Ordet (1955) is considered by many to be Dreyer's masterpiece. This complex family drama is both moving and challenging, and the ending is one of cinema's greatest moments. Gertrud (1964) tells the story of a woman's search for fulfillment. Nina Pens Rode gives an extraordinary performance, heightened by Dreyer's peerless pacing and composition.

Accompanying the three films is a documentary by avant-garde filmmaker Torben Skjodt Jensen. Dreyer claimed to be surprised that anyone would want to make a film about him, but a greater understanding of the personality and the craft that went into the making of these films only enhances their impact. In spite of a career characterized by as many setbacks as successes, Dreyer's uncompromising commitment to his art (he once suspended filming because the clouds were moving in the wrong direction) resulted in work that continues to enthrall audiences and inspire filmmakers to this day.

Interviews with Dreyer's collaborators provide the backbone of My Metier, but it is Jensen's visual approach--building layered images from photographs, manuscripts, and film clips--that explores and responds to Dreyer's movies in subtle but powerful ways. Instead of a succession of talking heads and illustrative excerpts, Jensen offers an impressionistic portrait of Dreyer in a documentary that is often as beautiful as its subject's own work. --Simon Leake

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abstract yet personal June 14 2002
This great package contains films by one on the masters of modern cinema. Dreyer's work provides a marvellous antidote to what passes for cinema in today's world. Dreyer's films are in effect works of art.
Of this set, my two favorites are Ordet and Gertrud. All of Carl Dreyer's film manage to magically combine the physical and the metaphysical. It takes time to get into the pace of these films, but one into them, they are totally absorbing. The pace required is that of real time. These films restore real emotion and humanity to film, so very different from what passes for emotion and feeling in most of today's Hollywood productions.
To understand these films it is necessary to work from the inside out as it were. We are required to do the work for ourselves. We have to think and feel for ourselves as we watch these films. They are theraputic in the sense that the viewer has to slow down and pay attention. Everything counts in a Dreyer film.
These film are at one and the same time abstract and very personal. I can see how they have influenced fellow Dane Lars von rier.
For anyone is looking for action and external excitement in their films, I would suggest that they look elsewhere, but if they are want to see meditative works of art, this is the place to find them.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent directing, stilted material Feb. 6 2002
By A Customer
Dreyer was concerned with truth, which he defined as being true to life. Words, voice quality, movement, lighting all had to reflect the script as refracted through a realistic exposition of human nature. Dreyer achieved this truth. There is no denying he was a genius at directing. Yet all in all, these stories are uninteresting. After the first half of Ordet, the remainder of the plot is fairly predictable. And I hate to say it, but Gertrud is just plain boring. We learn a bit about the meaning of love, but hardly enough to recompense our time. Yet Gertrud exemplifies the problem with the material. Dreyer's concern for truth was for truth in detail, yet the deep truths expressed in Gertrud are of a philosophical nature, i.e. the larger truths that represent the summary wisdom gained over a lifetime. If it is true, as Dreyer said, that we enter the theater and are transported into a different experience, it seems obvious that we would not want it to be "real" in the sense of that which seems like our common, everyday lives. Some of the "reality TV" shows that give us a glimpse into the life of ordinary people only reveal that these people are...well, ordinary. In fact, most of those people are darned uninteresting, their ideas pedestrian, and their conversation dull. While I shun movies loaded with special effects, explosions, and artificial tensions predictably resolved, I also expect the movie to open a window into the imagination by presenting a plot that has a germ of something unreal. These three movies are thoughtful, but not thought provoking. The photography is excellent and, in fact, the most exciting part of the production. The staging is meticulous. And the transfers are superb (Thanks again, Critereon!). Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Some of the best from one of the best. Feb. 4 2002
By A Customer
A stunning success from Criterion. Cinephiles who know Dreyer's works will doubtless buy this box-set sight unseen, so my review is more for the curious-minded who haven't seen these movies:
*Day of Wrath* (Five Stars): Groundbreaking masterpiece about witchcraft in Reformation-era Denmark. The general feeling, I may as well tell you, is one of unrelenting misery. A well-into-middle-age Lutheran clergyman lives with his sour mother and his twenty-something beautiful wife. His adult son from his first marriage returns home to find that his "stepmother" is the same age as he is . . . guess what happens. Meanwhile, the old clergyman presides over the burning of a nice old lady who has been accused by the village elders of being a witch and a minion of Satan. (Yes, Joe McCarthy wasn't Miller's sole inspiration for *The Crucible* -- this movie predates that play.) So far, so good, right? Well, don't be too sure: as a matter of fact, the old biddy IS sort of a witch, as is the beautiful young wife. For that matter, the old pastor is anything but a meanie: he's a decent old stick . . . his principles are compromised, to be sure, but he's no villain. And neither is his sourpuss mother: even she has some vindication at the end. Check your assumptions at the door. Oppressive society? or a society that creates the very Evil that it persecutes? or a society merely protecting itself? Dreyer treats us like grown-ups, letting us ponder the ambivalences of this dark masterwork for ourselves.
*Ordet* (Five Stars): Based on a play by someone called Kaj Munk. Makes a serious claim to be the Best Movie Ever Made. It's so starkly artful, so ultimately beautiful, that it really defeats a 1-paragraph critique.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Necessary. Jan. 8 2002
By Alvie
The only sad thing about this collection is that it doesn't include Dreyer's working of Jesus' life which, of course, is because he never filmed it or really completed the script. All other work represented is tops. From "Ordet", the classic play by fellow Dane Kaj Munk, to "Gertrud", this collection is a must have. The documentary shines light on his techniques, approach & brilliance. For some reason Dreyer's not as well known as another director great, Ingmar Bergman, but maybe this collection will help in that regard.
Known mostly for his wonderful interpretation of "Joan of Arc" & "Vampyr", Dreyer's later work is equally riveting (if not moreso). His understanding of the human condition shines through in each film.
If you have a penchant for Scandinavian film-making, this is a necessary buy. If you just love films, it's well worth your time to decide if it's your cup of tea.
Finally, as for Criterion's working- it's tops, as usual. Their attention to detail evident in each film they persue.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the documentary
Watch out, cinema lovers! Carl Theodor Dreyer is a unique director, and his films require a special kind of patience. Read more
Published on April 1 2004 by bruther
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Box Set
It is fantastic that Criterion supervised this release. The biography disc is OK - too bad we didn't get 'Vampyr' instead - but the three Dreyer movies alone are worth far more... Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2004 by C. Rubin
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential
This collection would be improved by inclusion of the early Dreyer comedy The Master of The House. I have seen Gertrud and The Day of Wrath in the cinema several times and Gertrud... Read more
Published on May 25 2002 by Milos Tomin
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpieces
I as well think Ordet is the best of the collection. Its haunting and powerful narrative provides a daring yet refreshing look into faith and death. Read more
Published on Sept. 14 2001 by melquist
5.0 out of 5 stars My Metier
I've been a longtime fan of the films of Dreyer, not only for the profound themes that he portrays in his films, but also for the unusual way he sets and composes his scenes. Read more
Published on Sept. 12 2001 by DAVID W MARTIN
5.0 out of 5 stars Criterion's Best Boxed Set Yet
I purchased this box set having only previously seen Dreyer's Day of Wrath (and Passion of Joan of Arc, which although not included is available separately on a great disc from... Read more
Published on Sept. 5 2001 by Jeremy Heilman
5.0 out of 5 stars Cinematic Treasure!
These films are true works of art. If you have any sympathy for the work of Andrei Tarkovsky, or that of Ingmar Bergman, then it is almost certain that you will appreciate Dreyer. Read more
Published on Aug. 31 2001 by Robert Bezimienny
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten treasures by the world's best director ever !
Carl Th. Dreyer is a director in dire need of rediscovery by cineasts and dedicated tv broadcaster alike. Read more
Published on Aug. 28 2001 by Lars Bredo Rahbek Aps
5.0 out of 5 stars Entering the great Danish artist's world
The author of "La passion de Jeanne D'Arc" has finally seen from heaven how his five best masterpieces are avaliable for every person in the world. Read more
Published on Aug. 15 2001 by "daboyeh"
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