The movie is unrated! Whoopee! (The movie talks about the devil, but there is nothing overtly horrifying about the movie.)
DIRECTOR: Carl Theodor Dreyer
This might make me a bad film teacher. I don't like Dreyer. I'm sorry! I should be better than that. Hey, I know film snobs who hate Ozu. I like Ozu. I really don't like Dreyer. (I also don't like David Lynch, but you should still forgive me.) There's something just a bit too avant-garde about his style that doesn't resonate with me. It's probably the same reason that I don't get excited about music videos. They look awesome, but I need the narrative to keep me engaged.
Vampires are super cool. There was a time about a decade ago that I was super into the concept of vampires. (One of things I wanted as an ability? Vampire face. Not a joke. That and Doc Ock arms.) Then Twilight showed up and ruined the party for everybody. I got off the vampire train, but still have an appreciation for the concept. In many ways, that's what makes Vampyr accessible for me. One thing we have to establish early on is that Dreyer is a master at imagery. His greatest strength across his oeuvre is the ability to create mood from stylistic images. The opening twenty minutes establish this extremely well. Using a simple shadow trick is still effective today as it was nearly a century ago. The mood is creepy and he really drives that point home throughout. However, like Dreyer's other films, he cares less about the cohesive plot as opposed to what looks awesome.
I genuinely believe that the movie is separated into three acts. The opening act establishes the tone. Throwing disturbing supernatural feats at the screen, the joyful aspect of me grasped onto the creepiness factor. However, like most of the supernatural tales of this era, the middle of the film tries establishing its own rules. Through the use of book pages, Dreyer tells the rules of his vampires through page-after-page of reading. It somewhat feels like the middle of the movie is a guided research paper, which doesn't exactly draw me in. Dreyer, unfortunately, decides to insert what little plot he has for the story here. Like the Universal Dracula, the story surrounds the slow transformation of a human into vampire. The problem is that there is no real relationship between the characters. I do throw myself under the bus here. I can't break out of my need for narrative structure and that's not what Dreyer is shooting for.
Yes, the imagery is amazing. The third act is really the evidence for that. Almost any still from that last third is gorgeous. But the story also seems to disappear. Once the research part of the story disappears, so does any version of the story. The extremely effective terror of the man stuck inside his own grave is awesome, but I have little idea of what is going on here. Perhaps that's my fault because I can't shut my brain off, but I know that I can't be the only one who needs some clear logical explanation for this.
I want to like Dreyer. I just can't. This might be my favorite Dreyer, but that's not selling much.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.