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Carl Theodor Dreyer

Sunday, December 12, 2010
5:00 p.m. Gertrud
Carl Th. Dreyer (Denmark, 1964)

“Two things for me have always been and still are more important than anything else. These two things are Love and Thought,” says a character in Dreyer’s final film, a statement that sums up this work, and Dreyer’s entire career. Gertrud is in a loveless marriage, but neither a fling with a much younger composer, nor the chance to rekindle an affair with a previous lover, bring her what she needs. “Love without borders; to this idea of love, all humankind is created and called;” in Gertrud, this pursuit is portrayed at its most elemental. The actors intone, but never emote, and rarely make eye contact; movement is minimized, or eliminated entirely, and an unholy quietude seems to seep through every frame. All the audience is given to hold onto in this strange, hypnotized state is emotion, desire, and love, whether repressed, denied, or unattained. The film’s final images, of a shabby hallway and a closed door, are as heartbreaking—or liberating—as any in film. For Jonathan Rosenbaum, Gertrud is “one of the ten greatest films in the history of cinema.”

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Carl Th. Dreyer, based on the play by Hjalmar Söderberg. Photographed by Henning Bendtsen. With Nina Pens Rode, Bendt Rothe, Ebbe Rode, Baard Owe, Axel Strøbye. (115 mins, In Danish with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, Danish Film Institute, permission Janus/Criterion Collection)