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183 - Vampyr 
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Post 183 - Vampyr
I have grown to realize that a director I have never heard of 2 years ago, is maybe one the best of all.

Carl Theodore Dreyer as the son of a Swedish farmer (according to IMDB). I have seen four of his films in the last two years and three of them are masterpieces.

Most people have never even seen one of his films. That's a travesty.

We've discussed Passion of Joan of Arc and a very few of us have seen the magnificent Ordet or Gertrud.

Now we have vampyr. A dream like horror movie from May 1932. I watched the Criterion DVD twice tonight. the second time with the commentary.

Vampyr is a great horror movie, but it's no an action slasher. It relies on dread and fear. It has wonderful imagery. It made me wonder what it was like to be visiting theaters seeing Boris Karloff one week and this the next. George Pal where are you?

Be careful though. This is not a horror fan's movie at all. it's a film fan's movie.

And finally some context. this film was made before Hitler's rise to power. Almost 80 years ago!

8/10 for me and a treat.
Rob


Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:32 am
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
Hey Rob, you should use the forum's "Search" feature for this one. In the last couple of weeks (months?) there were several members who offered opinions on this film. I believe Blo-andy, Pete, Zeppo and myself all had something to say. Majoraphasia bought it but hasn't watched it as yet.

So far the majority seems to think that it's a little overrated. I find myself firmly in that camp. The film is incredibly atmospheric but for a short movie it just drags and drags. What makes things worse is the amount of reading that's required for a sound movie. I don't mind reading title cards in a silent film, but this is Dreyer's first sound film and I think he went into it having not yet mastered the art. Why do we have to read so much text from the book about vampires? There has to be a better way to present things.

Again, one of the more atmospheric films I've come across, but atmosphere isn't everything. I'm not one who needs a traditional narrative in every film but this one sure could have used a more coherent story.


Tue Dec 28, 2010 3:23 pm
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
Here's what I wrote originally back when I first saw it:

Blonde Almond wrote:
Vampyr: Not as strongly memorable as the other two films. However, this does manage to build an effectively creepy atmosphere, and there are plenty of interesting gothic images. Unfortunately, the pace of the film suffers, even at a short length of 75 minutes. The middle portion is especially grueling, where characters sit around and don't do much other than read from a book about vampires, which dissolves any momentum the film has gained. The plot itself doesn't make much sense, but overall it has enough memorable images in its first and last movements to label it as a "good" film, but nothing more than that. 6/10.


I'm pretty much in agreement with ed on this one. The films has a great beginning and end, but the middle section, for the most part, is a drag. The most memorable moment in the middle section for me is the unsettling grin of the sick woman, which occurs near the start of this clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7dGwUQofaU

The ending somewhat redeems the slow middle patch. I especially loved the strange dream that the main character has when he is put into the coffin, with the multiple point-of-view shots of him looking up through the window as he is carried along to the burial site.

I think a big part of the appeal of the film is its overall strangeness. I'm willing to forgive some of the clunkier moments because of the numerous memorable images and its surreal tone.


Wed Dec 29, 2010 3:35 pm
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
I feel as if a weight has been lifted from my cremaster.

Vampyr suffers from the over-selling by people who know a lot a lot alotalot more about film production/design/history/etc. than myself -- they've over-sold the "eerie, dream-like" atmosphere and they've... hold, please.

This is a fine technical film (the first 30 minutes apparently stand in for all available 73 as "eerie, dream-like" as they are indeed "eerie, dream-like") and who doesn't enjoy a short film that says "Go, God, Go!" in rallying cheer? Perhaps as a meeting-place for (more hyphenation coming soon) talkie-silentie Vampyr may be a brilliant success.

I was unaffected, stone-cold, un-moved, hyphen-loving for 73 minutes.

Ah, the modern eye. I believe Martin was a better film with a similar allegorical theme but but but that was 1977 and this is 1932. A simple film, Vampyr, that gives God the thumbs-up and the lighting department a chance to create some excellent imagery. And Dreyer! We'd all benefit from the kind of lovely pan that he offers up when shadows dance, music distorts, and that atmosphere reminds the reminding department what "atmosphere" means.

This wasn't a great film. I can't say that I particularly enjoyed the experience of watching it (or, as has been pointed out, reading it... the text, oh you do go on, Text) but I can say that I took Vampyr as an important reminder: Learn more about film production, idiot.

My impulsively-purchased box set has much to say about Vampyr and I've read/watched 0% of it. My hope is that I'll be able to re-visit this (especially after watching Metropolis and some silent Dreyer) when I'm better-versed in what it meant to make a movie like Vampyr in the early 1930s. In 2010 it wasn't more than a briefly-atmospheric, simple song of God's good Goodness. Plus memorable images. Plus technical mastery. This is precisely why I can't "rate" movies with any conviction. For the moment, with my film knowledge, I can't recommend the film.


Mon Jan 17, 2011 11:22 pm
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
majoraphasia wrote:
Vampyr falls into the movies-I-think-are-kind-of-neat-but-not-really-all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips camp.


That Criterion is a 3-disc set, no? Man, good luck with that. If you find any great insights or anything causes you to change your opinion, please let us know. Like you said, the technical mastery is apparent, but I'd love to know what else is so highly regarded about the film.

Welcome to the Vampyr-is-kind-if-meh club. You and your hyphens are warmly welcomed.


Wed Jan 19, 2011 10:11 am
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
majoraphasia wrote:
My hope is that I'll be able to re-visit this (especially after watching Metropolis and some silent Dreyer) when I'm better-versed in what it meant to make a movie like Vampyr in the early 1930s.


Let us know if any of that changes your opinion. I still think some (most?) of the issues are down to Dreyer going into a sound film without being comfortable in the medium. I've seen one of his silents (Joan of Arc) and one of his sound films (Ordet) and both are substantially better than this.

I don't want to dismiss the film completely though. Rob found a lot to like and I believe Zeppelin dug it even more than he did.


Wed Jan 19, 2011 3:35 pm
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
ed_metal_head wrote:
majoraphasia wrote:
My hope is that I'll be able to re-visit this (especially after watching Metropolis and some silent Dreyer) when I'm better-versed in what it meant to make a movie like Vampyr in the early 1930s.


Let us know if any of that changes your opinion. I still think some (most?) of the issues are down to Dreyer going into a sound film without being comfortable in the medium. I've seen one of his silents (Joan of Arc) and one of his sound films (Ordet) and both are substantially better than this.

I don't want to dismiss the film completely though. Rob found a lot to like and I believe Zeppelin dug it even more than he did.


I won't dismiss the film completely until I get through the video supplements (I read the shooting script -- it's packaged along with Criterion's two-disc set -- and enjoyed it more than the film. Really. The film was more meticululously planned than a self-circumcision) but, really, the my first impression won't likely change all that much. If I felt I'd missed something than, well, new cup of tea.

It'll be some time before I see Ordet and watch most of those lengthy supplements (commentary, docus and the like) because I'm currently running through my Netflix "dead ends" before the Huge Movie Shebang (available to me via schedule change from January 25th until the middle of Feb) and don't want to clutter up the so-called Shebang with the "dead ends" (these aren't necessarily bad films but the ones that have been on the list the very longest -- Youth of the Beast, Ride Lonesome, Murder By Contract, Dog Soldiers, Man in the White Suit) that I don't care about giving my strictest attention. Thta goes for Vampyr's supplements, too. Stuff I can watch on a computer or portable DVD player, that kind of thing. So on. So forth. This paragraph is boring.


Wed Jan 19, 2011 6:08 pm
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
What say you gents about Dreyer's Joan of Arc? I've been looking at checking it out for a while now. I'll use whatever you two (or three, or four, or however many want to chime in) say to make my decision. If you say go, I'll go. If you say stay, I'll stay. I guess this makes me a well-trained canine.

Also, Mark, what's planned, if anything, for the Huge Movie Shebang?


Wed Jan 19, 2011 11:56 pm
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
Pete, I challenge you (and myself) to watch The Passion of Joan of Arc by the end of this week. :)


Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:05 am
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
Pedro wrote:
Pete, I challenge you (and myself) to watch The Passion of Joan of Arc by the end of this week. :)


My name may not be Pete but I'm on board :)


Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:06 am
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
Pedro wrote:
Pete, I challenge you (and myself) to watch The Passion of Joan of Arc by the end of this week. :)


It's available for streaming and only 82 minutes? Deal. I'll have it watched by Saturday at the latest.


Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:10 am
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
I might watch it tonight. Or Vampyr. This is the Vampyr topic, after all. Or Mad Men. That's a tasty show.


Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:27 am
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
PeachyPete wrote:
Also, Mark, what's planned, if anything, for the Huge Movie Shebang?


There are no guarantees, my friend. But I guarantee the following movies regardless of my no-guarantees policy:

The Fast Runner
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Lady Snowblood

I aim to watch watch one movie per day for 21 days. An adjustment of my biological clock will set this back to 17 at the most. Since reality will further be hindered by such urges as reading and writing, 12 movies will be likely. So I'm thinking I'll be able to get in at least 12. 10 if the weather is spectacular, 6 if I can manage a few nooners, 4 if I choose to hold sleeping contests where I see how long I can sleep and attempt to beat that record the next evening. 2 if I fall ill (and it could happen) and perhaps one movie, and one movie alone, if I learn the Mayans were off by a year.

So it looks like it's just the one movie for those three weeks. Hmmm. And I had all that free time!

But those three are on the top of the "wanna see" list. Others are Lonely are the Brave and The Sundowners.

If all goes as planned, and this is strictly in the hands of Netflix, I'll be watching Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. I also take suggestions but, as per usual, don't take every suggestion equally.

Pedro wrote:
I might watch it tonight. Or Vampyr. This is the Vampyr topic, after all. Or Mad Men. That's a tasty show.


Oh, Vampyr. The first 30 minutes (basically the first half of the movie) have some imagery that leads to atmosphere that I wish I could see more of. The second half isn't as good. To me, at any rate. Go, film student, tell us what we're missing!*

*This was meant in all sincerity. I find myself in the uncomfortably position of having to convince people of my sincerity.


Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:41 am
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
I'm halfway done, but I can already tell you the camera moves a lot and that's unusual for the era. I also noticed a few low angle shots, which are also kind of peculiar.


Thu Jan 20, 2011 1:19 am
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
Hm, I suppose I'm in the minority of people who enjoyed reading the vampire text - only that text, though. The introductory text and brief uses of expository text were weak. Sifting through the vampire books as the main character or the priest lent film a sense of horrified discovery. All of a sudden we moved from this world we're comfortable with to a scary new place with vampires and the undead, juxtaposed with black text on white screen. I don't know, I thought it worked.

More on this later. The film's really quite perplexing. On a storytelling level, Vampyr is clearly a failure. On pretty much every other level, it's a grand success. I daresay you shouldn't rate Vampyr based on how well it tells its story, but on how it wants to share its world with you.


Thu Jan 20, 2011 2:12 am
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
majoraphasia wrote:
Oh, Vampyr. The first 30 minutes (basically the first half of the movie) have some imagery that leads to atmosphere that I wish I could see more of. The second half isn't as good. To me, at any rate. Go, film student, tell us what we're missing!*

*This was meant in all sincerity. I find myself in the uncomfortably position of having to convince people of my sincerity.


The last 5 (10?) minutes or so are really good too. Death by granary. I love it.

Pedro wrote:
I'm halfway done, but I can already tell you the camera moves a lot and that's unusual for the era. I also noticed a few low angle shots, which are also kind of peculiar.


Pffft. This is the 1930s. FW Murnau was moving the fuck out of the camera a full decade earlier.


Thu Jan 20, 2011 3:58 pm
Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
ed_metal_head wrote:
majoraphasia wrote:
Oh, Vampyr. The first 30 minutes (basically the first half of the movie) have some imagery that leads to atmosphere that I wish I could see more of. The second half isn't as good. To me, at any rate. Go, film student, tell us what we're missing!*

*This was meant in all sincerity. I find myself in the uncomfortably position of having to convince people of my sincerity.


The last 5 (10?) minutes or so are really good too. Death by granary. I love it.


You're right... great death. Plus the nice symbolism of the machine gears and so forth.

The opening scenes of Vampyr reminded me of one of my favorite Woody Allen moments. When Gray is on his way to the inn, he's carrying what (for the sake of the connection) I'll call a butterfly net.

I was reminded of that hilarious moment in Love and Death when, after Woody is called to serve in the war, he's shown taking his luggage and a butterfly net to the coach that will be taking him to the front. That reminder was good enough for me to enjoy Vampyr just that little much more.


Thu Jan 20, 2011 5:42 pm
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Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
I didn't have anything else to do tonight, so I came to the Great Movies folder and looked for something interesting and with some diversity of opinion. When I came upon this thread I knew what I was going to watch. As for what it was I watched, I'm not entirely sure. A tremendous collection of images it is! I didn't mind reading the text, I think it added a great deal to the movie and rather liked the looking over the shoulder shots and the coffin perspective shots. I'm no film student, not even a good fan really, but I feel better for having seen this film. I will say that I did not feel a sense of dread from the atmosphere, more a sense of amusement.


Thu Apr 21, 2011 12:04 am
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Post Re: 183 - Vampyr
CasualDad wrote:
I didn't have anything else to do tonight, so I came to the Great Movies folder and looked for something interesting and with some diversity of opinion. When I came upon this thread I knew what I was going to watch. As for what it was I watched, I'm not entirely sure. A tremendous collection of images it is! I didn't mind reading the text, I think it added a great deal to the movie and rather liked the looking over the shoulder shots and the coffin perspective shots. I'm no film student, not even a good fan really, but I feel better for having seen this film. I will say that I did not feel a sense of dread from the atmosphere, more a sense of amusement.



Casualdad

Yours is the best review of all. You tried a film you did not know and came away feeling good. What more could a fan ask?

Yay!

Nice to "meet" you.

Rob


Thu Apr 21, 2011 12:40 am
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