Thursday, August 14, 2008

VAMPYR (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1931, Germany) Carl Theodor Dreyer guides us through a nightmare world of shadows and vile darkness, of malformed reality that coexists with our own. This frightening landscape is revealed to Allan Gray, a lonely traveler who stumbles upon a town haunted by a vampire and spends the night at a local Inn. This strange and palpable atmosphere settles upon him like a thick obscuring fog, the weight of fear heavy upon his chest. The Innkeeper makes an unexpected nighttime visit and gives him a package: it is not to be opened until his (the Innkeeper’s) death. Gray, his visage as ashen as his name, is overcome with curiosity and begins a nighttime sojourn in search of answers to this surreal riddle. He experiences dim and dangerous shadows as they cavort and conspire without their host bodies. He spies the old Innkeeper, shot dead by these sadistic shades, and discovers his two beautiful daughters…one of whom falls victim the despicable darkness: the legendary Vampire. Dreyer is able to capture the sublime psychosis of fear on celluloid. He communicates visually through chiaroscuro lighting effects, grand shadowy illusions, and disturbing images. A man with a scythe, not uncommon in a rural setting, materializes as a Charon-like silhouette, ferrying the damned souls to Hades. A one-legged man becomes a monstrosity whose shadow is loosed upon the town like the Plague. A doctor’s office, a place of healing balms and the antiseptic aroma of hope, becomes a gruesome charnel house reeking of poison. It is obvious that Dreyer filmed in real locations because his tight framing often reveals ceilings, battered walls, and well walked floors: this lends a solid reality to the film. He navigates the labyrinthine corridors of the Inn and Manor House with slow forward and backward tracking shots that remain in perfect focus. A scare or shock, so trendy in modern horror films, is a quick fast food jolt, a simple excess of vapid calories that is soon consumed and forgotten. VAMPYR will chill your marrow and leave an uneasy feeling of deep malaise…but it won’t shock you. At least, not in the way you expect. (A+)

No comments: