Vampyr ★★★

Ridley's Halloween Horror Movie Marathon 2018: The History of Horror Edition, 31/122

When someone asks for an example for what a visual film experience looks like, this will certainly be a film that leaps immediately to mind. Right from the first frame of action, the hazy overcast of the town perhaps too small to be considered a town is ever prevalent, giving way to a veritable menagerie of arresting imagery. A caller for a ferryman waits, scythe on shoulder; a man walking past a lake, finding a reflection not his own on the opposite bank, yet belonging to no one else; shadows running rampant and frequently independent of their owners; and remains of long dead occupants find themselves far from their final resting place. There's certainly no shortage of potent imagery here, and almost all of it eerie and nightmarish, made all the more effective by the choice to keep spoken dialogue at a minimum, as if it knows whatever a character wants to say won't matter since no one present will know what they mean. It's tempting to say that this isn't a supernaturally inclined film as it is in fact a true product of the supernatural, with no attachment to the confines of what one perceives as reality or logical. It's potent imagery no doubt, but anyone familiar with Carl Theodor Dreyer knows that he isn't one to trifle with in that department. That's why for all the heaps of praise I have laid upon the film's visual makeup, it does pain me somewhat to admit that didn't feel nearly as cohesive as I would have liked for it to have been, and certainly nowhere near the level of success that Dreyer achieved on his previous film, The Passion of Joan of Arc. Undoubtedly, both films are going for entirely different objectives, but, well, the passion of the central subject matter for Joan of Arc reaches a pitch that overwhelms you long before the truly traumatic imagery occurs, whereas this film tends to feel a bit too detached and distant for me to feel genuinely unnerved by the otherwise startling compositions. It leads to a film that I can certainly admire from afar, but one that I find difficult to get as cozy as I would have liked for it to. I suspect that this may improve on a rewatch in the future, but with as many films as I still need to get through, it must sadly wait for now.