Leaves From Satan’s Book (1920)

Early effort from Carl Dreyer, one of a number of international arthouse giants I tend to have trouble appreciating for whatever reason. (I am, no doubt, in a very special minority thanks to my dislike of Passion of Joan of Arc.) While I did kind of like the film he made before this one (The Parson’s Widow), this didn’t do much to elevate him again in my esteem. Supposedly based on Marie Corelli’s Sorrows of Satan, but as far as I can tell it bears about as much relation to it as Vampyr would to its source a decade later. Similarly, the influence of D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance seems to have extended only to the idea of using four linked stories in four different historical periods; there’s no intercutting of the tales like Griffith did, though. The theological underpinning is interesting—God condemns Satan to tempt mankind and every soul Satan wins only adds to the time he must do so; God’s a real charmer, isn’t he—but it doesn’t exactly add up to the most rivetting drama.

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