A maddening and transcendent avant-garde soap opera which couches valuable, heartfelt messages in theatrical stylization so unrelentingly dour and humorless that it sometimes risks laughter. Still, what an ending, and there is no shortage of formal invention, including the best lighting cinema has ever seen. You might say my biggest problem is that formalists insist on canonizing it. 4 out of 5 stars.
I suppose I'll get raked over the coals for this reaction, but I don't see greatness in Gertrud. In fact, it's the one Dreyer film that didn't level me. Thematically it's compelling, and the dialogue is great. But the curious melding of theatrical and modernist aesthetics left me cold, the overt artifice of the creation stripping away the emotional power of the performances.
A woman tires of her life as a politician's wife and embarks on an unsatisfactory affair with a young composer. Refusing to compromise in her search for true love, she leaves both men and walks out on her restrictive roles of wife and mistress. Dreyer's sublime valedictory film is composed of lengthy conversational scenes and dynamic camera work. Its pace is stately but stay with it and patience reaps many rewards...
Faced with the looming shadow of capital-F Film History, I always feel like there must be something wrong with me, but I was kept at a distance from this intentionally dispassionate marital drama at all times. Or, "dispassionate"; the rare moments of genuine emotion and direct interaction were interesting. I'm open to seeing it again. 2.5/5
Moments immortalized in stubborn pursuit of the impossible: dark gives way to bursts of memory drenched in diffuse light; the exchange of a cigarette stops time; an undressing lover glorified as towering shadow; the self (frozen in mirrors) joins the art on the walls; a swell of music (mentioned diagetically) seems utterly non-diagetic. "A fire about to be extinguished" already rekindling in our imagination. Cinema.
I can see why this didn't go down so well at the time--given that it seems to hail simultaneously from the 19th and 22nd centuries--but if you hang with it, one of the more profound movies about time, love and lack-of-love, the boundaries of the self, etc. will reveal itself. There are even a few laughs.