Vampyr (1932) Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
In German the film was called Vampyr – Der Traum des Allan Gray, or “Vampyr: The Dream of Allan Gray.” It was funded by Nicolas de Gunzburg, who also starred in the film under a pseudonym, and the script was based on J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s In A Glass Darkly, a collection of horror stories.
The film tells the story of Allan Gray who is a student of the occult. He travels to an Inn near Courtempierre, a village in northern France that is haunted by a vampire. Eventually, Gray learns the secret of the vampire and kills her, lifting the curse of the vampire.
Vampyr was a challenging film for Dreyer to make as it was his first sound film, and it was made in three languages – German, French, and English – and therefore it features very little dialogue, and was mostly shot in the silent film style. In it, Dreyer employs soft film techniques and other unique special effects, such as shadows or reflections moving without a person in front of them. The film was entirely shot on location.
The film was largely panned during its heyday, but has received more favorable reviews in recent years.
Who was Carl Theodor Dreyer? He was born in Denmark – an illegitimate child who was adopted. He had a difficult upbringing but was highly intelligent. Eventually, Dreyer moved to France and worked as a journalist and then got involved in film. He spent time with fellow directors, Jean Hugo, and Jean Cocteau. He made his silent classic in 1928, The Passion of Joan of Arc. Vampyr was his immediate follow-up. He was ideologically conservative all his life. Dreyer died in Copenhagen at age 79 of pneumonia in 1968.
Vampyr is a remarkable film. What it lacks in plot it makes up for with captivating visual techniques and cinematography. Though unpopular in its heyday, Vampyr is an amazing film.