So I just finished Carl Dreyer’s Gertrud, and thought I would read up on it a bit to see what the overall impressions were of the meaning and direction the film is exactly trying to go. Gertrud leaves her two previous lovers, because of what seems to be neglectful attitudes towards her. The thing I don’t understand one bit is how she keeps stating that she is happy in her solitude in the end, since she looks utterly depressed in pretty much every shot she is in. There seemed to be some sort of point in which she states that she does not believe in God and, as well, has no faith in re-kindling her previous relationships since the bonds are forever severed in her eyes. At one point she even states “Do you believe you can breathe life into something dead and buried?” (or along the lines of that), which is ironic since in Dreyer’s Ordet that is exactly what ends up happening due to great faith. Gertrud seems to have no faith in absolutely anything, so she is left alone (and presumably miserable) at the end of the film. The thing is, I really wasn’t able to decipher if it was supposed to be some sort of critique on Gertrud’s character or the men she was with. The final moments of dialogue I found pretty confusing in terms of what was trying to be implied. Is Gertrud really supposed to be happy in her solitude?
What were your thoughts on the film?
also sorry for misspelling the title :(
Effective film for analysis – unbelievably there has not been a thread until now.
I’ll give you this regarding: Is Gertrud really supposed to be happy in her solitude?
“Human experience is a cruel and remorseless power that must be denied in order to live in a true relationship of self to reality.” Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Gertrud: The Moving Word By James Schamus
It’s a film that intimately tied to the biographical details of Dreyer’s own life. Here are a couple of pieces of writing on the film that might be illuminating:
Glad you provided those links.
“Gertrud” has been widely misunderstood as simply a filmed version of Soderberg’s play. Dreyer completely rewrot the play, eliminating many characters and aspects. Plus the ending is entirely his ow.
I first saw it in 1965 at the New York Film Festival. Dreyer was present.
How was the reception in NYC? I’ve read it was booed at Cannes (?)
Thanks so much for the Rosenbaum link, Matt. Very useful indeed, including the undermining about the strictly Lutheran upbringing (misinformation), which i’d originally thoiught true but then had read being disputed.
Thanks everyone, I think everything is falling into place and I am understanding. It seems like a really difficult film to swallow seeing as how Gertrud’s actions can be seen so easily as delusional. The elements of self-love are more clear. Gertrud, delusional or not, does strive for personal happiness thus objecting her place as a sort of “wife-object” to her lovers, both seeing more value in their work than in Gertrude herself (even though they both do claim to love her, and are sad to see her go). She places herself beyond this role, and realizes that she herself can only love her in such an unconditional way.
Does this seem correct? The thing is that her happiness does not seem believable to me, her longing for past memories and a look of sadness in her face in the final moments. Perhaps it is a sad, lonely realization for her, but a required one none-the-less. For someone who’s ideals cannot be met, in such a pure way that Gertrud had strived for, learning to have great value and love in yourself is a requirement to reaching satisfaction and happiness.
Yeah, rather than a matter of happiness, I think of it as more a matter of personal integrity.
The ending of the film always put me in the mind of the old Emily Dickinson poem:
The soul selects her own society,
Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more.
Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing
At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.
I’ve known her from an ample nation
Then close the valves of her attention
Yes, i was about to say, being true to yourself, rather than live a lie or settle for something beneath your ability, intellect and standards; so, integrity, absolutely. Tarkovsky made the point about life being more about experiencing than happiness, which can be a false expectation and goal. Gertrud is not perfectly likeable but the film goes deeper than that. In any event women should always have had an equal right to independence.
Maybe i should identify more strongly with Dreyer, a fellow adoptee, though i do admire his films a lot nd his progressive attitude to women. Like him, i didn’t blame my birth mother for social ills, attitudes to unmarried mothers, and was not happy with some repressive aspects of my upbringing. Unlike him, i loved rather than faulting my adoptive mum. Strangely i associate more with characters in Mizoguchi’s Sansho the Bailiff and Tales of the Taira Clan.
As with Ordet, you can see the influence of the painter Hammershoi. The reputation of Gertrud is now very high, and i see Passion of Joan of Arc’s fortunes in the latest Sight & Sound poll have risen again.
I wouldn’t call Gertrud “delusional” at all. She’s very clear about what she wants. Were she a man she’s be called “strong and resolute.”
Women are simply called “bitches.”
That a good point, David.
The other thing that the ending connects with for me for some reason is the ending of The Age of Innocence, where Archer and his son are in Paris years after his wife has died, they go to Ellen’s apartment and Archer won’t go inside to see her, and just sends his son in.
A closing of the circle?
Something like that.