Vampyr - Der Traum des Allan Grey Reviews
Eighty-four years later and "Vampyr" is widely regarded as being one of the finest horror movies ever made and a pivotal point in the career of Theodor Dreyer ("The Passion of Joan of Arc"). But from the critical and commercial standpoint of 1932, the film was a failure, an unlikable enchilada of blurry photography and dull nonsensicality. Since cinephiles of today are better equipped to appreciate the technical achievements of game-changing auteurs, "Vampyr's" interpretive renaissance only makes sense. But perhaps those close-minded ticket-buyers of nearly a century ago were slightly unerring in their disfavor of the movie's indirectness - while I'm in awe of Theodor Dreyer's cinematographic innovations and his masterful control over the film's hallucinatory atmosphere, there's no denying that its ephemerality makes it a fantasy pressed to successfully put us under its spell.
It puts on a front of having a storyline for the sake of appeasing the most difficult of a viewer, but I see "Vampyr" as using characters and their motivations as markers to stitch the celluloid together to keep it from floating away. The film, more or less, revolves around Allan Gray (Nicholas de Gunzburg), a young occultist whose view of the world, as the movie puts it, blurs the real and the unreal. His wandering nature thus leads him to the village of Courtempierre, a secluded region in north-central France. Gray doesn't plan to stay long - he's simply renting a room for the night - but after being awakened in the early hours of the morning by a strange man who appears to be in a trance (he even leaves a letter that's supposedly only to be opened in the event of his death), his stay gains in its meaning.
Especially when, after some investigation, Gray learns that the village, in actuality, is controlled by vampiric forces, with several of the town's residents being dominated by the vindictive energy. As examinations deepen and revelations increase, Gray very well might find his life drastically altered in the process of his getting used to Courtempierre.
A lot of those descriptions, though, stem from a great deal of inferring and speculation - while watching "Vampyr" was I not so much caught up in the logistics of the plot (if there are any) as I was taken aback by Theodor Dreyer's torrent of stunning imagery, all gorgeously realized (his utilization of the soft focus lens is an absolutely brilliant touch) and all luscious in their nightmarish disconcertion. The film's more inclined to evoke artistic intoxication than a night's worth of spine chills, however, and our reaction to it is more comprised of admiration than emotional torment.
Which is precisely the problem I have with "Vampyr." Though unquestionably ravishing and unprecedented in its experimentations, Theodor Dreyer always keeps us at an arm's length, never to erase our surroundings and draw us into the world he's so methodically created. And in the wake of the incredibly affecting "The Passion of Joan of Arc," paling in comparison is inevitable. But much of "Vampyr" is extraordinary; this is filmmaking at its most daring and its most peerless.
Dreyer uses a cast not very well known if not in some cases at all and puts Nicolas de Gunzburg in the lead role as Allan Gray the young man whose fascination with the supernatural takes him to a small inn in the village of Courtempierre. For me the best character is the village doctor played by Jan Hieronimko who was found on a Paris metro train of all places and cast into the film among many other amateurs. I feel that Hieronimko's performance is similar to others in this too, I mean the acting here is not exactly great, don't get me wrong it's not bad at all but sometimes they just move around a little sluggishly, reactions are sometimes over the top. Dreyer knows though how to use his actors well though, even if they aren't too believable, he does this in a spooky way and although they move around just a little strangely, at times that strange movement can be kind of freaky and used to nice effect.
Dreyer co-writes the film with Christen Jul and the script but in more specifics the dialogue is very well, not much there, but that is one reason this movie works so well. At such a short running time that this film is you can't be adding too much small talk, in fact this film dives into the plot very quickly indeed and it works well because it makes this so much more interesting, straight away you are hooked in on the story and that makes this at least very watchable. The film was not exactly met with positivity when it was first released and was considered a low point in Dreyer's career, the thing about this film though is that although I feel this is a little too clunky to be anything better than good, it is still well as I said, good, a must see for any fan of cinema or horror.
Vampyr is not the best horror film but it is as I can see considered a classic among it so I can't finish this review without recommending it. It won't make you jump, in fact it won't probably make you feel scared at all but that I feel is not what Dreyer is trying to convey, it is the surrealism of it that he tries to make you see and tells a story that is highly original and a very smart yet weird story. All the characters Dreyer creates are well done and although I mentioned the acting before it is fair to say they all do a pretty decent job at least all together as a cast. Oh and one more thing and this is pretty important really, the camera angles, Dreyer works extremely well with Rudolph Mate and they create a film that looks not just creepy, but also looks extremely surreal as well.
The plot seems to largely consist of a Latin version of HP Lovecraft look a like wandering around a small fishing town. The story it self is super vague and loose.
Would have been cool to see in high definition, but DVD is the best they have at the moment.