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Vampyr - Der Traum des Allan Grey

Vampyr
Vampyr, ou l'étrange Aventure de David Gray / The Vampire / Castle of Doom / Not Against the Flesh / The Strange Adventure of David Gray

Germany/France 1932
produced by
Carl Theodor Dreyer, Julian West for Tobis
directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
starring Julian West, Maurice Schultz, Rena Mandel, Sybille Schmitz, Jan Hieronimko, Henriette Gérard, Albert Bras, N.Babanini, Jane Mora
screenplay by Christen Jul, Carl Theodor Dreyer, based on the novel In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu, music by Wolfgang Zeller, cinematography by Rudolph Maté

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Having taken abode at a country inn for the night, young Allan Grey (Julian West) is awoken by an old man (Maurice Schutz), who hands him a parcel and asks him to open it only in case of his death. Later that night, being kept awake by strange, almost nightmarish visions, Grey is somehow drawn to a neighbouring manor, where he sees the old man shot dead. Upon opening his parcel, Grey finds it contains a book about vampires, and he, who is soon asked to stay in the manor, starts to read it. Soon enough, Grey sees the content of the book mirrored in the real world, as a daughter of the house, Leone (Sybille Schmitz), seems to have been bitten by vampires: She lies in bed almost bloodless, lusts for the blood of others, and has weird bitemarks on her neck. Furthermore, people who are supposed o be dead seem to wander the premises.

The doctor (Jan Hieronimko) treating Leone is asking Grey for a blood transfusion, and event hough the doctor has been acting suspicious, Grey agrees - but the aftermath of the trtansfusion throws him into a horrible nightmare in which he is dead and buried and wanders the premises as a ghost - yet his nightmare might not actually be a dream but some semi-hallucinatory state, as he finds out more and more about what's going on in the house, finding another daughter, Gisèle (Rena Mandel) chained to a wall in a locked room, a good deal about the doctor's rather sinister motives, and an old woman (Henriette Gérard), who seems to have a haunting power over everything that's going on.

Finally, Grey returns to the here and now for good, finds the old woman's grave, opens it and drives a stake through her heart, thus releasing Leone of her semi-vampiric state. And while the evil doctor gets trapped in a mill and suffocated in flour, Grey frees Gisèle and rows off with her ...

 

To understand Vampyr, one has to understand first that the film is not so much your typical genre entry based on an a tad formulaic narrative but a mood piece that moves along at an intentionally slow pace with many a leap of reason, all quite deliberate - and in that the film resembles more a nightmare than your typical genre shocker. Add to this a camerawork that's best described as lyrical, perfect use of simple cameratricks, and fittingly subdued performances by the entire cast and you've got ... well, a masterpiece.

 

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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written by
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