Carl Th. Dreyer


Director, screenwriter, cinema manager. Born 3 February 1889. Died 20 March 1968, at age 79.

Carl Theodor Dreyer is the most important director in Danish cinema. Internationally, Dreyer ranks among the greatest artists ever to work in the medium of film. Born out of wedlock (as Karl Nilsson), he was adopted at age two by a Danish couple. His biological mother died shortly after giving him up for adoption. Many film scholars regard Dreyer's leitmotif of tragic, suffering women as a biographical element in his films.

Dreyer started his career as a journalist and wrote screenplays on the side. His first realised screenplay was "Bryggerens Datter" (Rasmus Ottesen, 1912) produced by Skandinavisk-Russisk Handelshus. From 1913-18, Dreyer worked as a screenwriter at Nordisk Film. There he directed his first film, "Præsidenten" / "The President" (1919). In the 1920s, Dreyer mainly worked abroad. In France, he directed his best-known film and masterpiece, "La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc" / "The Passion of Joan of Arc" (France, 1928).

Ten years would pass after Dreyer made his first sound film, "Vampyr" / "The Vampire" (France/Germany, 1932), before he got work again as a director, making the short film "Mødrehjælpen" / "Good Mothers" (1942). The following year saw "Vredens Dag" / "Day of Wrath" (1943), a feature whose tightly wound depiction of 17th-century witch hunts can be seen as a comment on the Nazi occupation of Denmark at the time. In 1952, Dreyer acquired the license for the Dagmar cinema in Copenhagen.

Apart from a handful of shorts, the great filmmaker only got to make two features in his remaining years. And he only got the opportunity, because the Ministry of Justice urged the Palladium film company to improve the quality of its films if it wanted to keep its cinema licence as a production company.

Dreyer dedicated his last years to research and even learned Hebrew while planning "Jesus af Nazareth," a film project that never made it into production.

Bibliography: Countless books and articles have been written about Dreyer. The following is just a small selection. Jean and Dale Drum: My Only Great Passion (2000). Raymond Carney: Speaking the Language of Desire (1989). Edvin Kau: Dreyers filmkunst (1989). Martin Drouzy: Carl Th. Dreyer født Nilsson (1982). David Bordwell: The Films of Carl-Theodor Dreyer (1981). Mark Nash: Dreyer (1977). Tom Milne: The Cinema of Carl Dreyer (1971). Ebbe Neergaard: Dreyer (1963).

Visit the Carl Th. Dreyer website for much more info -


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Film Year Function Category
Store danskere: Carl Th. Dreyer 2006 Appearance TV documentary
Kinomagazin: Carl Th. Dreyer und Gertrud 1994 Appearance TV film
Cinéastes de notre temps 1965 Appearance Documentary
Gertrud 1964 Direction DK/Feature
Something about Scandinavia 1956 Story DK/Short fiction
The word 1955 Direction DK/Feature
Rønne og Neksøs genopbygning 1954 Script DK/Documentary
A Castle within a Castle 1954 Direction DK/Documentary
Shakespeare and Kronborg 1950 Script DK/Documentary
El gran puente del Storstroem 1950 Direction DK/Documentary
Denmark's Great Sculptor 1949 Direction DK/Documentary
Statsradiofoniens barndom 1949 Editing DK/Documentary
They caught the ferry 1948 Direction DK/Short fiction
The Danish Village Church 1947 Direction DK/Documentary
The fight against cancer 1947 Direction DK/Documentary
L'Age de repos 1947 Script DK/Documentary
Water on the farms 1946 Direction DK/Documentary
Two people 1945 Direction Feature
Day of wrath 1943 Direction DK/Feature
Good Mothers 1942 Direction DK/Documentary
Vampyr (L'etrange aventure de David Gray) 1932 Direction Feature
Giovanna d'Arco 1928 Direction Feature
Die Braut vom Daalenhof 1926 Direction Feature
Mannen och hans överman 1925 Direction DK/Feature
Heart's Desire 1924 Direction Feature
Once upon a time 1922 Direction DK/Feature
De märkta 1922 Direction Feature
Blätter aus dem Buche Satans 1921 Direction DK/Feature
Nach Recht und Gesetz 1921 Direction Feature
Der Präsident 1919 Direction DK/Feature
Gillekop 1919 Script DK/Feature
Lace 1919 Script DK/Feature
Lydia 1918 Script DK/Feature
Glædens Dag 1918 Script DK/Feature
Hotel Paradies 1917 Script DK/Feature
Herregaards-Mysteriet 1917 Script DK/Feature
Hans rigtige Kone 1917 Script DK/Feature
Fange Nr. 113 1917 Script DK/Feature
Den mystiske Selskabsdame 1917 Script DK/Feature
The mystery of the crown jewels 1916 Script DK/Feature
Maikönigin 1916 Script DK/Feature
En Forbryders Liv og Levned 1916 Script DK/Feature
Panthegräfin 1916 Script DK/Feature
Den hvide Djævel 1916 Script DK/Feature
Weibchen 1916 Script DK/Feature
Die Waffen nieder! 1915 Script DK/Feature
Penge 1915 Script DK/Feature
Juvelerernes Skræk 1915 Script DK/Feature
Krigskorrespondenten 1913 Script DK/Feature
The secret of the bureau 1913 Script DK/Feature
Hans und Grete 1913 Script DK/Short fiction
Ein Drama in den Lüften 1913 Script DK/Feature
Der Todesritt 1912 Script DK/Feature
Bryggarens dotter 1912 Script DK/Feature
Dr. Cook's Arrival 1909 Appearance Non-fiction footage
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Registration of festival participation and awards

The Danish Film Institute registers international festival participation and awards for Danish films, though primarily for films whose festival distribution is handled by the Danish Film Institute, and primarily in connection with festivals prioritised by the Danish Film Institute. Festival participation and awards regarding Danish films that are not handled through the Danish Film Institute's festival distribution will only be registered in connection with "launch" festivals, according to the Danish Film Institute's list of priority festivals. See the list of priority festivals.

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