Saturday, June 2, 2012
Gertrud is Carl Dreyer's desperate plea for love, true, uncompromising, complete love. Love that isn't merely hedonistic, and that doesn't concede to the business of life, no matter how pressing the issue. Dreyer conveys this deep-rooted desire through his characteristically simple narrative style, giving the viewer a woman, Gertrud, who leaves her husband in order to find real love. Her attempt is desperate, going for a young musician who she feels will be able to give her perfect love. I don't want to go too far into the story, as Dreyer, in trademark fashion, manages to create suspense in what sounds like a pretty boring story. But the real pleasure is the absolute poetic beauty of the dialogue, another Dreyer trademark. As usual, he's assembled an amazing cast, led by Nina Pens Rode, a truly wonderful actress who might draw comparisons to Cate Blanchett if she were around today. One cannot really justify Gertrud's behavior, yet that's the tragedy of the film because her quest is to get the human weaknesses that have made pure love absent. As I said, Dreyer's film is a plea. Yet he seems to acknowledge that this type of love is chimerical in that it simply isn't compatible with industry and post-modernism. Perhaps he's not so much making a statement about love as he is about non-love and the reason its opposite is an unobtainable ideal. Gertrud was Dreyer's final film, and like everything he made, it's absolutely perfect. He's the only director whose masterpiece was his entire career. Everything he did was perfect, faultless. Not only did he make films of remarkable emotional strength and beauty, but he knew how to take advantage of the distinct possibilities of a movie via the camera. The photography in his work is among the most beautiful I've seen, while pretty much every single shot is a good one. Gertrud could so easily be a boing melodrama, and even with Dreyer's name stamped on it, one might still be bored by it. But seen within the context of Dreyer's entire career, it becomes much more riveting. The fact that it is a Dreyer film makes it instantly watchable, and you'll find its beauty floods the screen like few motion pictures ever do.