Carl Theodor Dreyer (1889-1968) is Danish cinema's most celebrated director and is still, to this day, an inspiration to artists and filmmakers. Paul Auster, for one, sends his character in "Invisible" (2009) to the cinema to watch Dreyer's "The Word". Director Carlos Reygadas embodied the miracle of resurrection from "The Word" in his Cannes Jury Prize winner "Silent Light" (2007). And Guillermo del Toro gave an audio commentary on a 2008 edition of "Vampyr", stressing the film's heavy influence on him.
Dreyer's films remain in high demand around the world at festivals and events. In 2010 alone they have screened in Berlin, Munich and Seoul, and this fall "The Passion of Joan of Arc" will be travelling to Toronto, chosen as #1 on TIFF's The Essential 100, a tribute to the 100 most influential films of all time that is to kick off the opening of the Bell Lightbox in Toronto.
Search for perfection
While the general image of Dreyer is that of a grave, elderly gentleman, his youthful years tell an entirely different story. Prior to his film career Dreyer was a reckless tabloid journalist, a flying stuntman and a balloon pilot.
Some have noted that this drive and determination followed him throughout his cinematic career, albeit in a calmer form. The youthful energy turned into a restless search for perfection in his films that made him work meticulously on all aspects of the production: script, design, locations, lighting, casting.
Dreyer directed 14 feature films and 8 shorts. His debut came in 1918 at Nordisk Film with "The President", and after yet another production at Nordisk, the ambitious "Leaves Out of The Book of Satan", Dreyer's career continued in Sweden, Germany, Norway and France.
In France Dreyer directed his masterpiece "The Passion of Joan of Arc" in 1928, his last silent film, followed by "Vampyr" in 1932. The next three decades saw his three signature works "Day of Wrath" (1943), "The Word" (1955) and "Gertrud" (1964).
Upon his death Dreyer left several unrealised scripts, among them his life's work "Jesus of Nazareth", for which he learnt Hebrew, and "Medea", filmed by Lars von Trier in 1988 for TV. From 1952 and to his death Dreyer was manager of the film theatre Dagmar in Copenhagen, and in 1959 published the book "Om filmen" ("Dreyer in Double Reflection").
Dreyer's work is born out of an interest in human existence and how it unfolds in a struggle between the individual's expressiveness and the pressure of dogmatic tyranny. Lars von Trier stated early on that the hallmark of Dreyer's art is "the passion of the pure-hearted" – and there is no doubt that Trier, in "Breaking the Waves" and "Dancer in the Dark", was inspired by Dreyer's uncompromising expression of pure emotion that has the strength to work miracles.
Unique collection now online
The Dreyer website invites you to take a closer look at a cinematic giant and his many-faceted life. The site is based mainly on donations from Dreyer's estate in 1975 and presents a collection of original scripts, research material for several of his unrealised film projects, personal letters, photos, film clips, newspaper clippings, film awards and parts of Dreyer's book collection.
International experts and filmmakers contribute with new perspectives on Dreyer's oeuvre. David Bordwell (US), James Schamus (US), Casper Tyberg (DK), Stephan Schröder (DE), Amanda Doxtater (US), Claire Thomson (UK), Mark Sandberg (US) and several others, cover many different aspects of Dreyer's work and life – from discussions of Dreyer as a sadistic director, his visual style, his take on women, Dreyer the daredevil, to the tactile sensuousness of Dreyer's film art, to name but a few.
This website is published by the Danish Film Institute and has been made possible through a generous donation from the Velux Foundation.