The Dreyer standard

Dreyer puts his hand up to block the camera, from a documentary ‘Carl Th. Dreyer’ available on http://english.carlthdreyer.dk

After a long period of waiting, it is good to be able to announce the official launch of the Danish Film Institute’s much-anticipated Carl Th. Dreyer website.

It has been worth the wait. The website (available in Danish and English versions) contains extensive and handsomely presented information on Denmark’s greatest filmmaker. There is a biography (creatively illustrated by photographs of Dreyer running down the right-hand column); thoughtful essays and articles on Dreyer’s visual style, his working method, and workplaces with which he was associated; explorations of key themes in his work; and biographical pieces on his various collaborators.

And then there is the gallery. Here is where things get really good. On one side there is a great selection of photographs and posters, the former including both personal photos as well as production stills. On the other side, there are the film and sound clips. There are extracts from some of the feature films (including Leaves from Satan’s Book among the silents), shorts, videos and sound interviews with Dreyer (some in Danish, some in English or with English titles), and films about Dreyer.

Then there is Dreyer’s Archive. This is a database of original scripts, work papers, photos, research material, newspaper clippings, book collection and more than 4,000 letters, mostly deriving from Dreyer’s estate. It is well put together, with exemplary indexing and hyperlinked cross-linking, though it is all in Danish and contains description of the archive contents, not digitised copies (the introduction to the database says that “all relevant material has been digitised, e.g. artifacts, photos and manuscripts” but this seems to relate to onsite access at the DFI).

Carl Th. Dreyer’s Die Gezeichneten (Love One Another) 1922, from http://english.carlthdreyer.dk

There is also an excellent filmography, providing a complete overview of every film with which Dreyer was involved, as screenwriter, director, editor and actor. Each record contains a short introduction, complete credits, stills, posters, technical data, scripts, plot summaries, DVD availability, selected reviews from Danish papers, and background information on the films’ production, reception and sources.

Here’s a list of all of Dreyer’s silent films (with director’s name in parenthesis and Dreyer’s credit on the second line):

The Leap to Death (Rasmus Ottesen, DK, 1912)
Scriptwriter Actor

Dagmar (Rasmus Ottesen, DK, 1912)
Scriptwriter

The Hidden Message (Kay van der Aa Kühle, DK, 1913)
Scriptwriter

War Correspondents (Vilhelm Glückstadt, DK, 1913)
Scriptwriter

Won by Waiting (Sofus Wolder, DK, 1913)
Scriptwriter

The Secret of the Bureau (Hjalmar Davidsen, DK, 1913)
Scriptwriter

Lay Down Your Arms! (Holger-Madsen, DK, 1915)
Scriptwriter

The Skeleton Hand (Alexander Christian, DK, 1915)
Scriptwriter

Money (Karl Mantzius, DK, 1916)
Scriptwriter

The Devil’s Protegé (Holger-Madsen, DK, 1916)
Scriptwriter

Evelyn the Beautiful (A.W. Sandberg, DK, 1916)
Scriptwriter

The Spider’s Prey (August Blom, DK, 1916)
Scriptwriter

A Criminal’s Diary (Alexander Christian, DK, 1916)
Scriptwriter

The Temptation of Mrs. Chestney (Holger-Madsen, DK, 1916)
Scriptwriter

The Mystery of the Crown Jewels (Karl Mantzius, DK, 1916)
Scriptwriter

The Mysterious Companion (August Blom, DK, 1917)
Scriptwriter

Which is Which? (Holger-Madsen, DK, 1917)
Scriptwriter

Convict No. 113 (Holger-Madsen, DK, 1917)
Scriptwriter

The Hands (Alexander Christian, DK, 1917)
Scriptwriter

Hotel “Paradise” (Robert Dinesen, DK, 1917)
Scriptwriter

The Music-hall Star (Holger-Madsen, DK, 1918)
Scriptwriter

Misjudgement (Alexander Christian, DK, 1917)
Scriptwriter

Gillekop (August Blom, DK, 1919)
Scriptwriter

Lace (August Blom, DK, 1919)
Scriptwriter

The President (Carl Th. Dreyer, DK, 1919)
Director Scriptwriter

Leaves from Satan’s Book (Carl Th. Dreyer, DK, 1921)
Director Scriptwriter

The Parson’s Widow (Carl Th. Dreyer, SE, 1921)
Director Scriptwriter

Love One Another (Carl Th. Dreyer, DE, 1922)
Director Scriptwriter

Once upon a Time (Carl Th. Dreyer, DK, 1922)
Director Scriptwriter

Michael (Carl Th. Dreyer, DE, 1924)
Director Scriptwriter

Master of the House (Carl Th. Dreyer, DK, 1925)
Director Scriptwriter Production design

The Bride of Glomdal (Carl Th. Dreyer, NO, 1926)
Director Scriptwriter

The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Th. Dreyer, FR, 1928)
Director Scriptwriter Editor

The whole site is a model of how to present any creative person’s legacy, let alone a leading filmmaker. It is easy to navigate, well-designed, amply visual, and has extensive cross-linking to encourage one to explore further and see how the site is structured. And new material is promised, so it is only going to get better and better. If only some other of the great names in silent film history could have similar definitive treatment (D.W. Griffith? Georges Méliès? Louis Lumière? Sergei Eisenstein? Where are the sites that these people deserve?). It’s about time – and the standard has been set.

4 responses

  1. You’re right, this is a good model for other sites about directors. The navigation is very clear. And I had no idea about Dreyer’s interest in aviation.

  2. Pingback: Comprehensive Carl Theodor Dreyer Website Goes Live « The Criterion Cast

  3. Pingback: Looking back on 2010 « The Bioscope

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