Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Film review #1

* The purpose of these images is only in a small part to show the mood of the film. Mostly I endeavor to capture images that show the costume of men

Title & year: Day of Wrath (‘43)
Director & country: Dreyer, Carl Th. : Denmark

Rate as history: ?/5

Rate as cimena: 4.5/5

Time: 1623

Location: Denmark

Ethnicity: Danes

Religion: Lutheran (?) with mixes of paganism (offering herbs grown under the gallows for their power) At 1:05 +- Absalom offers his dying peer final _____ ('communion' to Catholics, I forget what Protestants call it) and I am reminded how two differing groups of Christians see the statement of Jesus of Nazareth about ‘Take this in memory of me, for this is my body and this is my blood’ or words to that effect, quite differently. Protestants take this as a symbolic act, not a mystery of transmutation.

Class: Middle class clergy, working class ‘witches’

Characters: Anne the wife; Absalon Pederssøn the husband and father; Martin the son.

Synopsis: A middle age man married to an under 25 woman, lives with his mother. An old woman is accused of witchcraft. He will not save her, despite having saved the mother of his young wife who was accused of the same. The man's son falls for his father's wife. The woman is executed.

Story: begins with an illustrated manuscript of presumably, Revelations – a poem about the day of judgement. …. ‘Vredens Dag, af Gud opœst Satans grufuld regnbrœt vises frem for herrens ret.’ Day of Wrath, by God unleashed, behold Satan’s ghastly abacus, shown before the judge’s gaze’ While the words are powerful, the drawings interest me the most.

A witch is sentenced. The mob goes to fetch her. She escapes. The man is berated by his mother for his ‘scandal’. His wife meets her step-son. The escaped witch asks Anne for refuge. The leader of the mob comes to ask the old man (whom it is clear now is a pastor) to give up the witch who must be hiding in his house. Curiously, the tracker is not a rabid fanatic, but seems quite reasonable. Absalom is required to take her last confession before execution at the stake. She begs him to free her since he freed Anne’s mother,m who indeed, according to her, WAS a witch. He did it for his wife’s sake. She pleads with him. [I wonder if he will send her to her death to keep his sceret.] The kids practice singing the ‘day of judgment’ for the execution. This creeps Anne out.

Twelve clergymen watch the accused being tortured, not shown, until she ‘consents to a ‘full and voluntary confession’ (!) One of the observers of her confession [this scene is very hard to take – and I thought Pasolini was hard enough] puts words in her mouth. She agrees to anything. Someone suggests asking her to denounce any other witches she knows [a salesman asking for leads is a saint compared to these. I think that out of bitterness she will speak of the pastor’s mother-in-law, that she will let the righteous inquisitors fall upon him next for his occupational mercy borne of self-interest.] She will not name anyone. About to torture her again, Absalom intercedes. No, he merely tells her to be strong, his hands folded in prayer. [None, not even the one who will pull her arms above her head, seem vile or moronic. Everyone wants to purify her, to help her with salvation, it’s nothing personal, not about passions, it’s God’s mercy – and that makes it all the more horrific] She rebukes Absalom for not saving her and tells him she will denounce Anne. On the day of burning, everyone is so helpful, usherin Herlof Marte along. It is really disgusting. It is not mob violence, it is the legal system. Marte calls him to give him another chance: Set her free or she will denounce Anne (the daughter of a witch [begtoon by the Devil no doubt]). Tied to her ladder [practical way to roast someone or symbolic stairway to heaven?] she is tossed into the burning pyre before having the opportunity to say anything to the assembled. Virginal voices sing of God’s Judgement. [How sweet. Actually, it makes me ashamed to be Protestant, even in name. The Reformation accomplished nothing.] Absalom kneels for healing for his gnawing doubt. He confesses to his mother. Yet, he still sees his sin as against God, [not against another person. This is what I find so strange. In Islam, in Judaism, and certainly in some of the more humane forms of Eastern religions, religion is in a large part not about a ‘personal relationship with God’ but an ethical life in society. Do Latins (Catholics) and Slavics (Orthodox) understand this too? It appears that this Scandinavian pastor does not. Maybe the culture of guilt is more dangerous than one of shame. Around 46 things heat up between Anne and Martin. Both father and son speak of her child-like eyes. This is when I get bored, it’s becoming a love story. I use the fast-forward looking for new male costumes. There are only a few. BTW, the dad drops dead of a heart attack when Anne tells him she’s fallen for Martin, and that they did the dirty deed…. The last line of the film is ‘Save us Jesus, with your blood.’

Best actors: Anna Sverkier playing Herlof Marte the healer

Writing: Good he got in a partial reading from the Song of Songs from Solomon in the Old Testament, an embarassment to anaerotic Christians.

Costume: Plain for the times. My understanding is that Protestants, not just Puritans ( a more extreme form) felt that extravagance is a kind of sin. My sister, who was a Jehovah’s Witness, a sort of modern day anabaptist, felt much the same way. At fisrt Northern European Protestant garb seems striking. Then it becomes boring very fast. They just don’t have fun with their clothes.

Music: Nothing special.

Favorite lines: “Stop all your prattle! I fear neithe heaven nor hell. I am only afraid to die.”

Favorite scene: 43:39 when Anne embraces him asking him to hold her and make her happy, he replies that he hs much to speak to God about. Instead!

Other comments: The movie moves at a slow, but bearable pace. It’s more like slowly visualizing the text of a book than viewing a film. The words are like coming from my own mind.

Disappointments: Only in the inhumanity of man

Trivia: This was filmed during the Nazi occupation. I know from other readings and conversations with Danes old enough to remember, that Denmark (along with Bulgaria) were the only two countries whose citizens refused to go along with sending Jews to death camps.

Some Danish phrases sure sounds a lot like English. ‘ Come, let’s go’ and ‘kiss me’, for example, are virtually the same.

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