Carl Th. Dreyer

(1889 – 1968)

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: www.carlthdreyer.dk/en/

Title Year Function Category
Store danskere: Carl Th. Dreyer 2006 Appearance TV documentary
Kinomagazin: Carl Th. Dreyer und Gertrud 1994 Appearance TV film
Carl Th. Dreyer 1965 Appearance TV documentary
Honour to Carl Th. Dreyer 1965 Appearance Non-fiction footage
Gertrud 1964 Direction, Script DK/Feature
Something about Scandinavia 1956 Idea DK/Documentary
The word 1955 Direction, Script DK/Feature
A Castle within a Castle 1954 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
The rebuilding of Rønne and Nexø 1954 Script DK/Documentary
The Storstrøm bridge 1950 Direction, Script, Editing DK/Documentary
Shakespeare and Kronborg 1950 Script DK/Documentary
Thorvaldsen 1949 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
The early years of the State Broadcasting Service 1949 Editing, Screenplay, Organizer DK/Documentary
They Caught the Ferry 1948 Direction, Script DK/Short fiction
The Danish Village Church 1947 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
The fight against cancer 1947 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
Senior citizens 1947 Script DK/Documentary
Water from the land 1946 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
Två människor 1945 Direction, Script, Editing Feature
Day of wrath 1943 Direction, Script DK/Feature
Good Mothers 1942 Direction, Script DK/Documentary
Vampyr 1932 Direction, Script Feature
La passion de Jeanne d''Arc 1928 Direction, Script, Editing Feature
Glomdalsbruden 1926 Direction, Script Feature
Master of the House 1925 Direction, Script, Production design DK/Feature
Heart''s Desire 1924 Direction, Script Feature
Once Upon a Time 1922 Direction, Script DK/Feature
Love one another 1922 Direction, Script Feature
Leaves from Satan''s Book 1921 Direction, Script DK/Feature
The fourth marriage of dame Margaret 1921 Direction, Script Feature
The President 1919 Direction, Script DK/Feature
Lace 1919 Script DK/Feature
Gillekop 1919 Script DK/Feature
Glædens Dag 1918 Script DK/Feature
The Music-Hall Star 1918 Script DK/Feature
Fange Nr. 113 1917 Script DK/Feature
Den mystiske Selskabsdame 1917 Script DK/Feature
Hans rigtige Kone 1917 Script DK/Feature
Hotel ''Paradise'' 1917 Script DK/Feature
Herregaards-Mysteriet 1917 Script DK/Feature
Den hvide Djævel 1916 Script DK/Feature
The tempting of Mrs. Chesney 1916 Script DK/Feature
The Spider’s Prey 1916 Script DK/Feature
Evelyn the beautiful 1916 Script DK/Feature
En Forbryders Liv og Levned 1916 Script DK/Feature
Pavillonens Hemmelighed 1916 Script DK/Feature
Money (after Zola''s novel) 1915 Script DK/Feature
Lay Down Your Arms! 1915 Script DK/Feature
Juvelerernes Skræk 1915 Script DK/Feature
The hidden message 1913 Script, Balloonist DK/Feature
Elskovs Opfindsomhed 1913 Script DK/Short fiction
The secret of the bureau 1913 Script DK/Feature
War correspondents 1913 Script DK/Feature
Dagmar, the Brewer''s Daughter 1912 Script DK/Feature
The leap to death 1912 Script, Balloonist DK/Feature
Dr. Cooks Ankomst 1909 Appearance Non-fiction footage