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Day of Wrath

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I was unable to find an existing topic on this film, so I decided to start a thread on it. I just saw this recently, and I wanted to get other people's thoughts about this. I made the mistake of not really thinking about this film afterwards, so I'm starting to forget a lot of the details.

(Spoilers)

I wanted to talk about the ending of the film. So does Anne turn out to be a real witch?

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Before Bergman and "The Crucible"

Last week I caught the most compelling release of 2008 so far, a devastating period piece about love, betrayal and cruelty. It's masterfully photographed and alive to the human complexity of its characters, but offers an unsparing view of their failures and their blindness. It's intensely erotic, although it depicts nothing more risqu

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"Inside Our Borders" A&F Links: Leaves Out of the Book of Satan, A Buckeye Ahem'd Passion of Joan and The Passion of Joan of Arc, Vampyr, Ordet, and Recent von Trier Plans to make a Documentary for Gertrud. I don't see a whole lot else here.I think there was discussion of many of these and more Dreyer on previous incarnations of the board, but it's probably time we begin discussing some of these again now that the Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films will be coming upon us... (After we are fully spit out from consuming ourselves with Tops of 2009 and End of the Decade lists.)

FWIW, Day of Wrath holds tight to the # 29 spot on our Top 100 and I honestly feel that's a pretty fair position.

Aside from My Usual and Justified Reaction of Anger at the atrocities committed in it, I noticed a few nuances this time as I plodded through.

I wanted to talk about the ending of the film. So does Anne turn out to be a real witch?

That's a great question, and one which deserves to be explored. In my estimation, she did not turn out to really be a witch, however, how much does it matter whether she was or not? I think she thought she was, and therein lies your story. She lived in such a place where people were accused of this sort of thing all the time, and her mother and her friend in Herlofs Marte were at some point accused. I can see a case against herself building up inside her own mind: she may already have this ability for evil in her blood, she's the one who hid Herlofs Marte, she's already being accused of this sort of thing by her mother-in-law, and she's having an affair with her husband's son. On top of all of this, she wishes for the death of Absalom, and when her wish is granted, I can see her mysticism mounting up: "I did this. I can't believe it, but I have this power, and no matter what I believe with all these religious nuts around me, I am obviously a very dangerous threat to these people." This would be a natural, spiritual progression in her thinking, in the time and the place in which she lived.

The direct translation of the subtitles isn't very good in two instances when she begs of her husband to "Hold her," and asks for the same later when lying in the grass with Martin. This is somewhat a crossover from Swedish, and the film is in Danish, but the two are very close, so I'm unafraid whether a Danish or Swedish speaking person reads what I'm writing -- her words there are much more erotically charged than "Hold Me" is in English. She is saying what is the Swedish equivalent of "Ta mig," which is "Take Me," which is what a sexually charged woman would say to a man when she wants him to take her to bed.

Apparently Absalom never did this? It certainly appears he did not, and -- Good grief, allow me to vent frustations for the guy here. What a loser. She was a babe, and they were married, for crying out loud! Whether there was love in it or not, couldn't they at the very least consummate the union?

I'm going to go ahead and aim at a bit of film theory, although I never can do this stuff justice, but my hope is that other, more understanding characters might play off this and relay it a bit better in the future --

First, the pans Dreyer toyed with in Vampyr, where he'd spin around a bedroom as characters walked in and out of frame, are brought to perfection here in Day of Wrath, especially in the scenes in which Absalon is visiting his dying colleague. I don't know if this was still ahead of its time at this point, but it makes for a more interesting and affecting storytelling. Also, the parallel rendering of stories between Absalom praying and worrying in the den of his little home, and his wife and son out galavanting in the woods, adds tension in every detail. Finally, and perhaps most obviously, Dreyer's lighting and cinematography are astounding as usual, save for some of the all-too-shadowy parties in the woods.

The film is remarkable, but I can see you having to be at a certain place in life to be immersed in it. It is older, it's in Danish, and it deals with a plot from hundreds of years ago. As I noted in my reaction to it at the blog, I still see it as a very important piece, an understanding ointment to those who have gone through spitirual abuses of their own. To even those who haven't had these problems, it still serves as an excellent warning of the abuse of power, and the results of religious fanaticism run amuck. It had more tension than I remember being in The Crucible, which is no doubt its more contemporary equivalent.

The film makes me glad I know the difference between God and (sometimes) those who represent Him. A lack of understanding in years past has had disastrous consequences for many.

I'd be saving a spot for it near the top of my 10-best list if the movie hadn't been made 65 years ago.

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com, August 26

No one's stopping him! He can still put it in his Top 10 list if he wants...

Edited by Persona

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Ooh, one more thng that I forgot. I read somewhere that Dreyer ran off to Sweden after making Day of Wrath, due to the political reaction of the Nazis. I had a Swedish friend that used to tell me that Sweden was "neutral" during WWII, that neutrality was the reason their country wasn't attacked. More recently, on the commentary to Songs From the Second Floor, Andersson spoke of the Swedish avoidance of this topic, that it was more shameful than how Swedes like to remember it.

I wonder how long Dreyer had to live there, and when he started to put the pieces together that would be Ordet.

Edited by Persona

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Another remarkable Dreyer film. The man is a master of irony, seeing how

the alleged wicked witch sheds the tears of repentance

, while the stuffy townsmen seem sated by their own piety and self-righteousness (they're meant to remind us of Joan of Arc's persecutors in Dreyer's earlier film, right?).

Dreyer the great equalizer, too, bookending the narrative with the medieval-esque text reminding us of his belief that all, great and small, shall face the day of wrath, with their sins bared before the Judge of all, wholly dependent on the blood of Christ. Quite a contrast to the oppressively patriarchal society we see here, in which Absalom (great choice of names) can snatch up a young filly of his own choosing without her consent, and an old lady accused of witchcraft quite literally must nakedly face her male tormentors.

I had to check imdb to see if the same actress played both the old witch and Absalom's mother - which wasn't the case - since they so resembled one another physically and were never shown face to face in the same scene. Ironic, too, how the witch is first shown using her knowledge of herbs to try and help a female villager, while Absalom's esteemed mother is only shown spewing her hatred and asserting control.

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Not that much of a discussion on this one yet I see. Guess it's a hell of a lot darker than Ordet.

Beginning Thoughts:

- gotta love the lines, creases and wrinkles in Thorkild Roose (Absalon)'s face, he's got a depth of expression perfect for the role

- I'm not used to seeing a love triangle when both guilty parties love the one they are cheating on. It reminded me a bit of Camelot, except in that story Arthur isn't really neglectful of Guinevere like Absalon is of Anne here. Martin and Anne's dialogue sounds exactly like Lancelot and Guinevere. Also, Arthur is a much more noble figure, while Absalon isn't just at all (even if he knows it) - he keeps repeating judgments on Marte like "She deserved her punishment."

- I honestly had a hard time with the death bed scene. Here are two guys mouthing all the right words, the one offering Biblical comfort to the other, and yet both are essentially murderers who both presided over the torture and confession of Marte. Absalom later says his friend died in piety and yet all the other deathbeds he remembers involved people dieing in sin. I can't say I'm quite sure what he's getting at.

- Martin's character is also pretty hard to sympathize with since he's the weakest character in the film. "You should get a wife." "There's no hurry." He turns into his father at the end. The early 1600s are obviously a patriarchal society, but I like how Dreyer actually shows that the men who are taken advantage of it are taking advantage of it.

- Anne's quilting of the image of a mother and a little boy can't be a coincidence.

- Poor Anne, she's pretty much stuck in a catch-22. Either she goes with the husband old enough to be her father, or the weak son who's only going to turn into his father. Gotta give Lisbeth Movin credit though, I don't think I've seen an classics actress combine so much sultriness with so much innocence since Maureen O'Sullivan in Tarzan. In fact, Movin may have O'Sullivan beat.

- So is Preben Lerdorff Rye to Dreyer what Max von Sydow was to Bergman?

- Don't all the little kids in that town do anything else with their free time other than singing creepy hymns?

- I'm guessing I'm just historically deficient on this point, but the closing line is "Jesus, save us with your blood." Then we see the shadow of a cross, and then we see the shadow of a modified cross. Does anyone else know what this means?

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I don't know what platform Filmwell is on, but it looks to me like the 2014 byline was who posted it. Sometimes on blogs or mags that have multiple authors, that switch can get left on from a pull-down menu.

The voice certainly strikes me as much more Mike's than Ron's, but I'm not an expert....

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