Saturday, March 10, 2012
If you saw the movie Hugo, you'll remember the George Millies reference that movies have the power to visualize dreams. Some movies in the silent era did fulfill this notion, but I think Dreyer's Vampyr from 1932 was the first to truly embrace the idea. The whole movie is structured like one of those bizarre nightmares that defies logic, physics, and classical narrative. It's really one of the strangest films I've seen, a great horror vampire movie that's inexplicably rarely mentioned along side Nosferatu and Dracula. The first key to the success or Dreyer's film is the casting of Nicolas de Gunzburg as the protagonist, Allan Gray. Gunzburg has such a childish face to go with his strange, dark mind. He's a lonely wanderer with a world view crossing between reality and fantasy. At the film's start he's come into a small town. During the day he goes for a walk and comes across a great manor occupied by a father and his two daughters, one of whom is very sick. At this point the movie is already a bit of a maze of confusion, and it only grows more bizarre. The father is murdered by some unknown gunman, whose shadow we see upside down as he fires-one of the many anomalies in the movie. We know that vampires are going to become the subject of the film, and shortly after the death it's discovered that the sick daughter is being bitten by one. Gray then opens a book given to him by the father that presents a surprisingly detailed account of vampire lore. Yet Dreyer's intentions are never quite figured out. He's obviously interested in vampires, yet is his movie really about them? I ask because as he presents an account on vampires and how to defeat them, the film grows more and more maddening to the point where Dreyer seems to loose interest in his vampire tale in order to focus on dreams and a phenomenal piece of horror filmmaking concerning a mill. So maybe that's why Vampyr is not often mentioned along side the other classic vampire films. It's got other novelties besides these bloodthirsty creatures to focus on.