A man obsessed with the occult happens upon a small village that is being victimized by a vampire.
Okay, now we’re talking. This is the kind of thing I can get behind.
The film itself is a combination of two short stories from a collection called A Glass Darkly, but there are clearly elements from Dracula here, as well. There was so much going on here visually, with great use of shadow and a host of clever camera tricks.
Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer gets the most out of his cast, largely made up of non-actors, even though the film employs very little dialogue. Actually, Vampyr feels more like a silent film in execution.
As with my experience a few months ago watching Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf, this is one of those special films that was influenced as much as it was influential. The work of the expressionists of the twenties was clearly not lost on Dreyer, as he adopted the same anything-goes attitude that made their films so striking. It may not be as extreme as something like Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou – as Vampyr does still possess a linear narrative – but the sentiment is there. On the flipside, I can see much of this film in Hour of the Wolf, as well as the work of the surrealists that would come after him, like David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky.
Even though the Time Out List is flooded with vampire flicks – nine in total – there is definitely a place for this film. It is a feast of visual wonders, made when the technology of film was still being mastered.