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Vampyr

October 29, 2010

61. Vampyr – Der Traum des Allan Grey (Vampyr / The Vampire)
Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
Germany, 1932
IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Rachel
Roughly fourth viewing

Synopsis:

A young man with an obsession for the occult and supernatural goes on aimless journeys, arriving one day at an old inn. A chance meeting there eventually leads him to a dark experience of vampires, curses, life and death.

Essential Scene:

Allan Gray walks through the castle grounds after giving blood to help Léone. Weakened by blood loss, he falls. He limps to a bench and sits down. By use of double exposure, two Allans appear. One stays slumped on the bench and the other stands up. Is this a dream? Death? A vision?

His other ‘half’ goes walking through the grounds and into the castle. In a small room he sees a covered coffin. The coffin’s lid stands against a wall. The inscription on it reads:

From dust thou art — unto dust shalt thou return.

Allan bends down and slowly removes the cloth from over the coffin. The body lying in the coffin is his own. His eyes widen and he looks around for the village doctor. He looks through a window into the next room where Léone’s sister Gisèle is tied up. Allan tries to open the door to help her, but it is locked. He hears the doctor return, so he hides. Meanwhile the doctor prepares to take Allan’s coffin outside for burial.

As the lid is placed onto the coffin and the coffin moved outside, the perspective alternates between the action and the view from inside the coffin. Is Allan alive in the coffin?

Thoughts:

Despite Vampyr being categorised as a horror film, there is something stunningly ethereal about it. It’s the blurring of life and death; reality and the supernatural. Like a dream from which you wake up confused and unsettled rather than horrified. A memento mori.

Vampyr could have been recipe for disaster. Dreyer’s leading man, Julian West (aka Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg), was the film’s financier and was cast as Allan Grey as a result. Gunzburg had no previous acting experience and neither did the majority of the cast.

Instead, somehow the performances of the new actors hands itself perfectly to the confusion of the narrative and the dream-like surroundings. They are what we would be in these circumstances; utterly perplexed.

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