Vampyr (1932)

I didn’t really mean to do a string of odd vampire films;  I only picked this one up this afternoon cos I wanted to try a new bit of software to make the laptop DVD player region-free and this happened to be the first region 1 disc that came to hand. Anyway, after nearly 80 years, Vampyr is still a surpassingly strange film, and hasn’t got any less so with the passage of time, though of course in many ways I still think the strangest thing about it is that Carl Dreyer directed it; from this vantage point, what looks stranger than the sight of one of the recognised giants of European art cinema directing a vampire film, however downright weird? Even beyond that, though, it’s a curious piece of work, started before Hollywood embarked on its horror cycle but apparently delayed from release until Dracula and Frankenstein had screened in Germany. Plus it started as a silent film and ended up as a talkie, yet unlike almost any other early talkie I’ve seen. The post-synched dialogue only adds to what I think is the film’s greatest strength, i.e. the awe-inspiring sense of unreality it projects while being shot all on real locations. I can’t think of many other films that give quite the same feeling of dream or nightmare, with disconcerting edits and disruptions of space, shadows moving independent of the bodies casting them, minimal dialogue that doesn’t really do much to forward narrative, etc… And yet, as lovely as the restoration of the film on the Criterion disc is, I still feel sometimes the obviously inadequate print of the film I first saw back in 1991, missing about ten minutes, at least one scene out of order, and with some scenes taken from the English and French dubs (though even the English scenes were still subtitled), was actually better in some ways, if only because its somewhat mangled nature actually worked to enhance the film’s feeling of dislocation from anything resembling waking reality.


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