Vampyr

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Vampyr
Poster depicting Léone's staring up with an eager smile. In the bottom right corner, the Lord of the Manor holds a Candelabra while having a shocked expression. Text in the middle of the image includes the film's title written diagonally in red.
Promotional image for Vampyr by Erik Aaes.[1][2]
Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
Produced by Carl Theodor Dreyer
Julian West
Screenplay by Christen Jul
Carl Theodor Dreyer
Based on In a Glass Darkly 
by Sheridan Le Fanu
Starring Julian West
Maurice Schutz
Rena Mandel
Jan Hieronimko
Sybille Schmitz
Henriette Gerard
Music by Wolfgang Zeller
Cinematography Rudolph Maté
Edited by Tonka Taldy
Carl Theodor Dreyer[3]
Production
company
  • Carl Theodor Dreyer-Filmproduktion
  • Tobis-Filmkunst[4]
Distributed by Germany:
Vereinigte Star-Film GmbH[5]
Release dates 6 May 1932 (Germany)
September 1932 (Paris)
Running time 73 minutes
Country
  • Germany
  • France[6]
Language German intertitles

Vampyr (German: Vampyr – Der Traum des Allan Grey, "Vampire: the Dream of Allan Grey"; German pronunciation: [vamˈpiːɐ̯]) is a 1932 German–French horror film directed by Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer. The film was written by Dreyer and Christen Jul based on elements from J. Sheridan Le Fanu's collection of supernatural stories In a Glass Darkly. Vampyr was funded by Nicolas de Gunzburg who starred in the film under the name of Julian West among a mostly non-professional cast. Gunzburg plays the role of Allan Grey, a student of the occult who enters the village of Courtempierre, which is under the curse of a vampire.

Vampyr was challenging for Dreyer to make as it was his first sound film and had to be recorded in three languages. To overcome this, very little dialogue was used in the film and much of the story is told with silent film-styled title cards. The film was shot entirely on location and to enhance the atmospheric content, Dreyer opted for a washed out, soft focus photographic technique. The audio editing was done in Berlin where the character's voices, sound effects, and score were added to the film.

Vampyr had a delayed release in Germany and opened to a generally negative reception from audiences and critics. Dreyer edited the film after its German premiere and it opened to more mixed opinions at its French debut. The film was long considered as a low part in Dreyer's career, but modern critical reception to the film has become much more favorable with critics praising the film's disorienting visual effects and atmosphere.

Plot[edit]

On a late evening, Allan Gray arrives at an inn close to the village of Courtempierre where he rents a room to sleep. Gray is awakened suddenly by an old man, entering the room and leaving a square packet on Gray's table with "To be opened upon my death" written on it. Gray takes the package and walks outside finding shadows guiding him to an old castle where he sees several shadows dancing and wandering on their own. Gray also sees an elderly woman and encounters the village doctor. Gray leaves the castle and walks to a manor. Looking through one of the windows, Gray sees the man who gave him the package earlier. This old man is suddenly murdered by gunshot. Gray is let into the house by servants who rush to the aid of the fallen man but find it too late to save him. The servants have Gray stay the night, where the Lord of the manor's youngest daughter, Giséle leads Gray to the library where he learns that her sister, Léone is gravely ill. Gray and Giséle then see Léone walking outside. They rush to her finding her lying unconscious with fresh bite wounds. They have her carried back up to the manor where Gray remembers the parcel given to him. On opening the parcel, Gray finds the book is about horrific demons called Vampyrs.

After reading the book, Gray discovers Léone is a victim of a Vampyr and that the Vampyr also can have humans forced into her submission. The village doctor visits Léone at the manor, and Gray recognizes him as the old man he saw in the castle. The doctor tells Gray that a blood transfusion is needed and Gray offers his blood to save Léone. Exhausted from blood loss, Gray wakes sensing danger, and rushes to Léone, finding the doctor who has just dropped a poison vial from his hand. The doctor flees the manor, as Gray finds that Giséle is gone. Gray follows the doctor, finding himself in the castle where he has a vision of himself being buried alive. After waking from this vision, he succeeds in rescuing Giséle while the doctor is able to get away. The old servant of the manor finds Gray's Vampyr book and discovers the way to defeat a Vampyr is with an iron bar through their heart. The servant meets Allan Gray by Marguerite Chopin's grave behind the village Chapel. They open the grave and find the old woman lying there and hammer a large metal bar through her heart, killing her. The village doctor has found refuge in an old mill, but finds himself locked in a chamber where flour sacks are filled. The old servant arrives and activates the mill's machinery, making the Vampyr's associate suffocate in the flour that comes crashing from above. The curse of the Vampyr is lifted when Léone recovers. Giséle and Gray cross a foggy river outside by boat and find themselves in a brighter clearing.[7]

Cast[edit]

  • Nicolas de Gunzburg as Allan Gray, a young wanderer whose studies of occult matters have made him a dreamer. Gray's view of world in the film is described as a blur of the real and unreal.
  • Rena Mandel as Giséle, Léone's younger sister and the daughter of the Lord of the Manor. Giséle is kidnapped by the Village Doctor late in the film.
  • Sybille Schmitz as Léone, Giséle's older sister, who is in thrall to the vampire and finds her strength dwindling day by day.
  • Jan Hieronimko as the Village Doctor, a pawn of the vampire, Marguerite Chopin. The village doctor kidnaps Giséle late in the film.
  • Henriette Gérard as Marguerite Chopin, the vampire, an elderly woman whose hold extends beyond her immediate victims. Many villagers, including the village doctor, are her minions.
  • Maurice Schutz as the Lord of the Manor, Giséle and Léone's father who offers Gray a book about vampirism to help Gray save his daughters. After his murder, he returns briefly as a spirit and takes revenge on the village doctor and a soldier who had helped Marguerite Chopin.
  • Albert Bras as an Old Servant, a servant at the manor house. After the death of his master, he finds Gray's book on vampirism and, aided by Gray, ends the vampire's reign of terror.
  • N. Babanini as Seine Frau (His Wife)
  • Jane Mora as a Nurse
  • Georges Boidin as the Limping Man

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Director Carl Theodor Dreyer began planning Vampyr in late 1929, a year after the release of his previous film The Passion of Joan of Arc.[8][9] The production company behind Dreyer's previous film had plans for Dreyer to make another film, but the project was dropped which led to Dreyer deciding to go outside the studio system to make his next film.[8] Being Dreyer's first sound film, it was made under difficult circumstances as the arrival of sound put the European film industry in turmoil. In France, film studios lagged behind technologically with the first French sound films being shot on sound stages in England.[8] Dreyer went to England to study sound film, where he got together with Danish writer Christen Jul who was living in London at the time.[8] Dreyer decided to create a story based on the supernatural and read over thirty mystery stories and found a number of re-occurring elements including doors opening mysteriously and door handles moving with no one knowing why. Dreyer stated proudly that "We can jolly well make this stuff too".[8] In London and New York, the stage version of Dracula had been a large hit in 1927.[8] Dreyer and Jul created a story based on vampires which Dreyer considered to be "fashionable things at the time".[8] Vampyr is based on elements from J. Sheridan Le Fanu's In a Glass Darkly, a collection of five stories first published in 1872.[1] Dreyer draws from two of the stories for Vampyr, one being Carmilla, a vampire story with a lesbian subtext and the other being The Room in the Dragon Volant about a live burial.[10] Dreyer found it difficult to decide on a title for the film. It may have initially been titled Destiny and then Shadows of Hell.[1] When the film was presented in the film journal Close Up it was titled The Strange Adventure of David Gray.[1]

Pre-production[edit]

Dreyer returned to France to begin casting and location scouting. At the time in France, there was a small movement of artistic independently financed films, including Luis Buñuel's L'Âge d'Or and Jean Cocteau's The Blood of a Poet which were both released in 1930.[10] Through Valentine Hugo, Dreyer met Nicolas de Gunzburg, an aristocrat who agreed to finance Dreyer's next film in return for playing the lead role in it.[8] Gunzberg had arguments with his family about becoming an actor, so he created the pseudonym Julian West, a name that would be the same in all three languages that the film was going to be shot in.[11]

A black and white image of the film depicting the village docter's heads and arms above flour as he presses up against a chain link fence.
The village doctor suffocates under flour dropped from the mill above. This scene was added to the script during the film's production and was told to be toned down by German censors.

Most of the cast in Vampyr were not professional actors. Jan Hieronimko, who plays the village doctor, was found on a late night metro train in Paris. When approached to act in the film, Hieronimko stared blankly and did not reply. Hieronimko later contacted Dreyer's crew and agreed to join the film.[10] Many of the other non-professional actors in the film were found in similar fashion in shops and cafes.[11] The only professional actors in the film were Maurice Schutz, who plays the Lord of the Manor, and Sybille Schmitz, who plays his daughter Léone.[11] Many crew members of Vampyr had worked with Dreyer on his previous film The Passion of Joan of Arc. Returning crew members included cinematographer Rudolph Maté and art director Hermann Warm.[3]

The entire film was shot on actual locations with many scenes shot in Courtempierre, France.[10][12] Dreyer and his cinematographer Rudolph Maté took part in scouting for locations for Vampyr. Dreyer left most of his scouting to an assistant, who Dreyer instructed to find "a factory in ruins, a chopped up phantom, worthy of the imagination of Edgar Allan Poe. Somewhere in Paris. We can't travel far".[12] In the original script, the village doctor was supposed to flee the village and get trapped in a swamp. On looking for a suitable mire, the crew found a mill where they saw white shadows around the windows and doors.[12] After seeing this place, they changed the film's ending to take place at this mill where the doctor dies by suffocating under the milled flour.[12]

Filming[edit]

Vampyr was filmed between 1930 and 1931.[10] Everything being shot on location, as Dreyer believed it would be beneficial by lending the dream-like ghost world of the film as well as allowing them to save money by not having to rent studio space.[12] Dreyer originally wanted Vampyr to be a silent film, as it uses many elements of the silent era such as title cards to explain the story.[10][13] Dialogue in the film was kept to a minimum.[10] For the scenes with dialogue, the actors mouthed their lines in French, German and English so their lip movements would correspond to the voices that were going to be recorded in post-production.[13] There is no record of the English version being completed.[13] The scenes in the chateau were shot in April and May 1930. The chateau also acted as housing for the cast and crew during the filming. Life in the chateau was unpleasant for them as it was cold and infested with rats.[1][12] The church yard scenes were shot in August 1930. The church was not an actual church, but a barn with a number of tombstones placed around it. This set was designed by the art director Hermann Warm.[12]

Critic and writer Kim Newman described Vampyr's style as closer to the experimental features such as Un chien andalou than a "quickie horror film" made after the release of Dracula (1931).[14] Dreyer originally was going to film Vampyr in what he described as a "heavy style" but changed direction after cinematographer Maté showed him one shot that came out fuzzy and blurred.[1][15] This washed out look was an effect Dreyer desired, and he had Maté shoot the film through a piece of gauze held three feet (.9 m) away from the camera to re-create this look.[15] For other visuals in the film, Dreyer found inspiration from the fine arts.[1] Actress Rena Mandel, who plays Gisèle, said that Dreyer showed her reproductions of paintings of Francisco Goya during filming.[1] In Denmark, a journalist and friend of Dreyer, Henry Hellsen wrote in detail about the film and the artworks it appeared to draw on.[1] When being asked about the intention of the film at the Berlin premiere, Dreyer replied that he "had not any particular intention. I just wanted to make a film different from all other films. I wanted, if you will, to break new ground for the cinema. That is all. And do you think this intention has succeeded? Yes, I have broken new ground".[8] The filming of Vampyr was completed the middle of 1931.[10]

Post-production[edit]

A black and white image of the film depicting a transparent Allan Gray looking at his own body that is lying in a coffin.
Allan Gray (Nicolas de Gunzburg) finds a coffin containing himself in a dream sequence. Modern critics praise this sequence as one of the most memorable sequences from Vampyr.[16][17]

Dreyer shot and edited the film in France and then brought it to Berlin where it was post-synchronized in both German and French.[18] Dreyer did the audio work at Universum Film AG, as they had the best sound equipment available to him at the time.[11] Most of the actors did not dub their own voices. The only voices of the actors that are their own in the film are of Schmitz and Gunzburg.[11] The sounds of dogs, parrots, and other animals in the film were fake and were done by professional imitators.[11] Wolfgang Zeller composed the film's score and worked with Dreyer to develop the music.[11]

There are differences between the German and French releases of the film. The character Allan Grey is named David Gray for the German release, which Dreyer attributed to a mistake.[13] The German censors ordered cuts to the film that still exist today in some prints.[13] The scenes which had to be toned down include the doctor's death under the milled flour and the vampire's death from the stake.[13] There are other scenes that were shot and included in the script that do not exist in any current prints of Vampyr. These scenes reveal the vampire in the factory recoiling against a shadow of a Christian cross as well as a ferryman guiding Gray and Gisèle by getting young children to build a fire and sing a hymn to guide them back to the shore.[13]

Dreyer had prepared a Danish version of the film which was based on the German version with Danish subtitles and title cards.[19] The distributor could not afford to have the title cards completed in the manner they appear in the German version, which were instead finished with a more simple style.[19] The distributor also wanted to make the pages in the book shown in the film as plain title cards which Dreyer did not allow, saying that "the old book is not an text in the ordinary sense, but an actor. Just as much as the others."[19]

Release[edit]

The premiere of Vampyr in Germany was delayed by UFA, as the studio wanted the American films Dracula and Frankenstein to be released first.[10] The Berlin premiere was 6 May 1932.[18][19] At this premiere, the audience booed the film which led to Dreyer cutting several scenes out of the film after the first showing.[13] The film was distributed in France by Société Générale de Cinema who also distributed Dreyer's previous film The Passion of Joan of Arc.[10] The Paris premiere was in September 1932 where Vampyr was the opening attraction of a new cinema on the Boulevard Raspail.[19][20] At a showing of the film in Vienna, audiences demanded their money back. When this was denied, a riot broke out that led to police having to restore order with night sticks.[13] When the film premiered in Copenhagen, Denmark in March 1933, Dreyer did not show up. Dreyer soon had a nervous breakdown and went to a mental hospital in France.[19] The film was a financial failure.[21]

Critical reception[edit]

Press in Europe ranged from mixed to negative. The press in Germany did not like the film.[11] At the Berlin premiere, a writer for The New York Times wrote "Whatever you think of the director Charles [sic] Theodor Dreyer, there is no denying that he is 'different.' He does things that make people talk about him. You may find his films ridiculous—but you won't forget them...Although in many ways [Vampyr] was one of the worst films I have ever attended, there were some scenes in it that gripped with brutal directness".[22] Press reaction to the film in Paris was mixed.[11] Reporter Herbert Matthews of The New York Times wrote that Vampyr was "a hallucinating film", that "either held the spectators spellbound as in a long nightmare or else moved them to hysterical laughter".[20] For many years after Vampyr's initial release, the film has been viewed by critics as one of Dreyer's weaker works.[23]

More modern reception for Vampyr has been more positive. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 100% of critics have given the film positive reviews, based upon a sample of 24, with an average rating of 8.6/10.[24] Todd Kristel of the online film database Allmovie gave the film four and a half stars out of five, stating that "Vampyr isn't the easiest classic film to enjoy, even if you are a fan of 1930s horror movies...If you're patient with the slow pacing and ambiguous story line of Vampyr, you'll find that this film offers many striking images" and that although the film is "not exciting in terms of pacing, it's a good choice if you want to see a film that establishes a compelling mood".[16] Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader wrote the "The greatness of Carl Dreyer's [Vampyr] derives partly from its handling of the vampire theme in terms of sexuality and eroticism and partly from its highly distinctive, dreamy look, but it also has something to do with Dreyer's radical recasting of narrative form".[17] J. Hoberman of the Village Voice wrote that "Vampyr is Dreyer's most radical film—maybe one of my dozen favorite movies by any director".[22] Anton Bitel of Channel 4 awarded the film four and a half stars out of five, comparing it to the silent vampire film Nosferatu, stating that it is "lesser known (but in many ways superior)" and that the film is "a triumph of the irrational, Dreyer's eerie memento mori never allows either protagonist or viewer fully to wake up from its surreal nightmare".[25]

In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films.[26] Vampyr placed at number 50 on their top 100 list.[27]

Home media[edit]

Vampyr has been released with low quality image and sound as the original German and French sound and film negatives are lost.[18] Prints of the French and German versions of the film exist but most of them are either incomplete or damaged.[18] Vampyr was released in the United States under the titles of The Vampire and Castle of Doom and in the United Kingdom under the title of The Strange Adventures of David Gray.[28] Many of these prints are severely cut, such as the re-dubbed 60-minute English-language Castle of Doom print.[23]

Vampyr was originally released on DVD on 13 May 1998 by Image Entertainment which ran at an abridged 72-minute running time.[29][30] Image's release of Vampyr is a straight port of the Laserdisc that film restorer David Shepard produced in 1991. The subtitles are large and ingrained due to the source print having Danish subtitles which have been blacked out and covered.[31] This DVD also included the short film The Mascot as a bonus feature.[30] The Criterion Collection released a two-disc edition of Vampyr on 22 July 2008.[32] This edition of the DVD includes the original German version of the film, along with a book featuring Dreyer and Christen Jul's original screenplay and Sheridan Le Fanu's 1872 story "Carmilla".[32] A Region 2 DVD of the film was released by Eureka Films on 25 August 2008.[33] The Eureka release contains the same bonus material as the Criterion Collection discs, but also includes a commentary from director Guillermo del Toro.[34]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Tybjerg, Casper (2008). Visual Essay: Spiritual influences (DVD). New York City, United States: The Criterion Collection. 
  2. ^ "Vampyr booklet". Masters of Cinema. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  3. ^ a b Bazin, . p.103
  4. ^ "Credits". BFI Film & Television Database. British Film Institute. Retrieved April 23, 2014. 
  5. ^ Rudkin, 2005. p.79
  6. ^ "Vampyr Der Traum des Allan Grey". BFI Film & Television Database. British Film Institute. Retrieved April 23, 2014. 
  7. ^ Dreyer, Carl Theodor. Four Screenplays. Bloomington & London: Indiana University Press. 1970. ISBN 253-12740-8. pp. 79–129.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Tybjerg, Casper (2008). Visual Essay: The rise of the vampire (DVD). New York City, United States: The Criterion Collection. 
  9. ^ "The Passion of Joan of Arc > Overivew". Allmovie. Macrovision. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Rayns, Tony (2008). DVD Commentary (DVD). New York City, United States: The Criterion Collection. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Vampyr (Booklet interview with Nicolas de Gunzberg). Carl Theodor Dreyer. New York, United States: The Criterion Collection. 2008 [1932]. 437. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Tybjerg, Casper (2008). Visual Essay: Real and unreal (DVD). New York City, United States: The Criterion Collection. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i Tybjerg, Casper (2008). Visual Essay: Vanished scenes (DVD). New York City, United States: The Criterion Collection. 
  14. ^ Vampyr (Booklet essay "Vampyr and the Vampire"). Carl Theodor Dreyer. New York, United States: The Criterion Collection. 2008 [1932]. 437. 
  15. ^ a b Clarens, 1997. p.107
  16. ^ a b Kristel, Todd. "Vampyr > Review > Allmovie". Allmovie. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  17. ^ a b Rosenbaum, Jonathan. "Vampyr: Capsule by Jonathan Rosenbaum". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  18. ^ a b c d Vampyr (Booklet notes on the restoration of Dreyer's Vampyr). Carl Theodor Dreyer. New York, United States: The Criterion Collection. 2008 [1932]. 437. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f Tybjerg, Casper (2008). Visual Essay: The ghostly presence (DVD). New York City, United States: The Criterion Collection. 
  20. ^ a b Kehr, David (22 July 2008). "New DVDs: ‘Vampyr’ and ‘The Mummy’". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  21. ^ Truffaut 1994, p. 48.
  22. ^ a b Hoberman, Jim (26 August 2008). "A Dreyer Duo—Day of Wrath at the IFC and Vampyr on DVD". The Village Voice. p. 2. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  23. ^ a b Steffen, James. "Vampyr". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  24. ^ "Vampyr – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2011-02-07. 
  25. ^ Bitel, Anton. "Vampyr Movie review (1932) from Channel 4 Film". Channel 4. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  26. ^ "The 100 best horror films". Time Out. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 
  27. ^ CC. "The 100 best horror films: the list". Time Out. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 
  28. ^ McNally, 1994. p.259
  29. ^ Seibert, Perry. "Vampyr > Overview". Allmovie. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  30. ^ a b "Image Entertainment / Foreign / Vampyr". Image Entertainment. Archived from the original on 23 October 2007. Retrieved 7 February 2011. 
  31. ^ "Masters of Cinema – Carl Dreyer DVDs". Masters of Cinema. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  32. ^ a b "Vampyr [2 Disc][Special Edition][Criterion Collection] – allmovie". Allmovie. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  33. ^ "The Strange Adventure of Allan Gray". Allmovie. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  34. ^ "Vampyr / The Masters of Cinema Series". Eureka Video. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 

Bibliography[edit]

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