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Day of Wrath (Carl Theodor Dreyer) 1943

 

    Day of Wrath is probably the simplest of the Dreyer films that I've seen, but it is still a great work. Ironically, of all his films, it's the film with the most outward action in it, and it has the most outwardly accessible subject matter, so I'm surprised to say that it appealed to me the least. Nonetheless, it's gorgeous, impeccably acted, and has plenty of dramatic heft.

 

 

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    The cinematography is gorgeous, and evokes the characters inner states of mind better than just about any other director's film. The plot, which examines the daughter of an executed witch as she marries into a family that resents her past, is rather talky, but the themes of persecution and repression are deep enough to justify the chatter. During the film, we watch with horror as suspicion of guilt becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. The ego of the main character warps under the influence of the feelings of guilt that are caused by being suspected of being a witch. It's a fascinating character development, and Dreyer is able to convey it without explicit dialog telling us what's happening though mastery of mise-en-scene, lighting, and acting.

****

September, 2001

Jeremy Heilman