Tuesday, 15 March 2016

I've Just Seen: Gertrud (1964)

Gertrud (1964)


Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer

It seems that Dreyer, at least technique-wise, never made the same film twice. After the close-ups and low-angle shots in Joan of Arc, to the slow moving pans of Ordet, in Gertrud we have long, long shot lengths with a huge emphasis on dialogue delivered by characters who seem to barely move. Of the three Dreyer films I have seen to date, this one was the most obtuse, and inspired none of the awe of the other two.

The film style may have something to do with that, but it is also the story. Gertrud, played by Nina Pens Rode, wants to be loved utterly and completely by a man who won't be distracted by his career or other people. While this is an understandable desire, most people know that it is an impossible demand, one that they would fail at, so demanding it of others is foolish, Gertrud ignores this, and coupled with her wealthy lifestyle, she comes across as spoiled. However, Pens Rode's performance is so subtle, with little fanfare or histronics, that she is not nearly as frustrating as she could have been. The men are painted with slightly broader brushstrokes, particularly Gertrud's young lover.

The film looks beautiful, as one would expect of Dreyer. As with the other films, white is the main tone of the image, with the shadows and dark tones appearing as intrusions on the clean light. I can see why this proved divisive on release, particularly coming so long after the wonderful Ordet. A bit of a disappointment.


  1. I found this to be the most unemotional, passionless drama I had seen in a long time. I think I remember a scene where her husband sits in a carriage and thinks really hard for a couple of minutes. Oh, the thrills.

    My guess, at least without going and checking actual ratings, is that this is my least favorite Dreyer.

    I checked. It is, according to my Letterboxd rankings.

    1. It is strange just how passionless it is played; something one cannot say about Dreyer's other films.

      It does teeter on the verge of parody, of what people think all arty European films are: all style, little substance.