Day of Wrath (1948)


Critic Consensus: Beautifully filmed and rich with period detail, Day of Wrath peers into the past to pose timelessly thought-provoking questions about intolerance and societal mores.


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Movie Info

Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer's Day of Wrath (Vredens Dag) is set in 1623 Denmark, where Anne Pedersdotter (Lisbeth Movin), the second wife of a Danish pastor, grows to loathe her husband for his self-asceticism and instead falls in love with the minister's son - with whom she spends an inordinate amount of time. Locals overhear her wishing aloud for her husband's death; when he dies of a stroke not long after, she is accused of witchcraft, a charge taken seriously enough to be punishable by death. Eventually, the poor woman is tortured and traumatized to such a point that she actually believes she is a witch - and she gives in to being burned at the stake. Yet Dreyer then shifts the perspective from internalized - illustrating the woman's paralyzing fear - to externalized, a point of view that enables the director to depict his subject's spiritual purification. Even allowing for the aura of raw terror, Dreyer never loses sight of the eroticism inherent in the concept of witchcraft. Based on a play by Wiers Jensen, Day of Wrath was filmed during the Nazi occupation of Denmark and not released abroad until after the war, and the director reportedly had to flee his native country when he angered the government with the film's political content. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Thorkild Roose
as Absalon Pedersson
Lisbeth Movin
as Anne Pedersdotter
Sigrid Neiiendam
as Merete Absalon's Mother
Albert Høeberg
as The Bishop
Olaf Ussing
as Laurentius
Anna Svierkier
as Marte Herlof
Sigurd Berg
as Kapellmeister
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Critic Reviews for Day of Wrath

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (7)

Dreyer's impious, anarchic drama is a cry of rage at abusive authority, whether political, familial, religious, or moral; he celebrates erotic love as the natural order of things.

Feb 22, 2016 | Full Review…

However bleak, Day of Wrath is a masterpiece. See it.

Oct 23, 2008 | Full Review…
Top Critic

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.

Aug 28, 2008

A stark, brooding treatment of adultery, incest, and murder, an elemental tragedy not so far from a James M. Cain triangle, albeit shot so as to deliberately evoke the Dutch masters.

Aug 28, 2008 | Full Review…

Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1943 masterpiece begins as a film about seventeenth-century witch hunts in Northern Europe, but it's really a psychological thriller about the pull of evil on weak souls.

Aug 25, 2008 | Full Review…

Astonishing in its artistically informed period re-creation as well as its hypnotic mise en scene, it challenges the viewer by suggesting at times that witchcraft isn't so much an illusion as an activity produced by intolerance.

Jan 19, 2007 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Day of Wrath


my favorite dreyer film, more ambiguous than 'ordet', and even bleaker. made during the nazi occupation of denmark and it's easy to draw some parallels tho dreyer claimed this was unintentional on his part :P

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

A Dreyer film to the bone: technically innovative, critical of the dogmatic nature of Christianity, and brimming with fully-immersed, intelligent actors. I think Lisbeth Movin is a little bit unsubtle, but it might also be that she's portraying a woman so overwhelmed with new passion that she can't help but express it against her will. I love the way the movie is lit, and how it interacts dynamically with the characters' discussions of the "fire" in her eyes; she is a fascinating protagonist, repellent and sympathetic at the same time, and the language of the movie seems to reflect our constantly-shifting notions. What she is doing is wrong, but as the text unfurls to reveal a loveless marriage that she was essentially forced into, you cannot help but commend her for salvaging some bit of happiness. Fascinating work, if not totally groundbreaking in the grand scheme of Dreyer's oeuvre.

Drew Smith
Drew Smith

Super Reviewer

Another triumph by Carl Dreyer. A young woman marries a pastor quite a bit older than her. She meets his grown son, and they begin an affair. In the meantime, a neighbor woman who is accused of witchcraft asks the young woman to protect her from the authorities. This story of hypocrisy, intolerance and betrayal should be on everyone's must-see list. However, if you're not familiar with Dreyer's work --- AND WHY AREN'T YOU?!? -- be prepared that it's slow going. But like all of Dreyer's films, it's well-worth the effort of a little patience.

Cindy I
Cindy I

Super Reviewer

I know this is a masterpiece, but I just wasn't into it. It's sooo solemn and glum and metaphorical.

Ken Stachnik
Ken Stachnik

Super Reviewer

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