Friday, October 18, 2013

31 Days of Halloween - Day 18 - Movie 2

Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr (1932) is a tough movie to encapsulate in a short description. Allan Gray (Nicolas de Gunzburg under the name Julian West) arrives at an inn in a village where he is witness to strange scenes and phenomena, including a man with a scythe, a man who appears in his room and leaves him a package to be opened after the man's death, other strange people,and human shadows that lead him towards a manor house where he witnesses the man who left him the package being shot. Gray and the youngest daughter of the manor, Giséle, spy Giséle's ill sister. Léone, walking outside where she collapses with an old woman hovering over her. She is brought back to the manor with two punctures in her neck. Gray opens the package to discover it contains a book on vampyrs. Gray then tracks the doctor who has abducted Giséle while having an out of body experience and a vision of his own burial. Then it's a matter of tracking down the vampire so that Léone can be saved.

I used to watch Vampyr as I was drifting off to sleep late at night, not because it's a boring movie, it's anything but. I watched it because it has such a dreamlike quality to it. It's visuals, the way they, and the events they depict, come together, and the way the protagonist, Allan Gray wanders through it, are hypnotically dreamlike, really forcing you to puzzle together what's going on, and what everything means, even though it's not at all complicated a story. Some of the imagery is simply dazzling. Even though it was made in 1932, and the filmmaking is sophisticated, it feels like it was filmed much earlier. The sound is used sparingly, but with some complexity. I did find myself periodically distracted by thinking that Allan Gray really reminded me of H.P. Lovecraft, then thinking at some points that that was really fitting. This film really is a masterpiece, and so unlike anything else, especially from the era in which it was made.

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