Michael, adapted from a novel of the same name by the Danish writer Herman Bang, is the story of a famous artist, called The Master, and his love for a young man, Michael, who is his model and protégé.
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Dreyer's real intent is hidden in a story about a master artist and his young male model who betrays their bond. In today's understanding its a story of a gay man who has used a younger man who now has no further use for him in turn and that betrayal leaves him a shell of his former self. Little more than a LGBT relic at this point with strong production values for the time period.
"Now I may die content, for I have seen true love." Dreyer's first masterpiece MICHAEL is so concerned with the hidden mysteries of the soul (longing, loneliness) that not even the technical mastery of Karl Freund's cinematography or Hugo Haring's immaculate production design can subordinate it. A true 'kammerspiel' (chamber drama), it's transcendental power lies in eyes, silent glances and words unsaid. A treasure.
Early Dreyer effort about an aging artist who is devastated when the man he loves abandons him for a woman. Notable for its overt (but not explicit) depiction of homosexuality, MICHAEL is an otherwise straightfoward film that delivers very little of the virtuosity that Dreyer would display in THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC four years later.
Another staple of his silent period, if there is something potentially dislikable here is the Duke de Monthieu subplot, that I found it comes off as distracting and irrelevant compared to the main story.
Cumbersome at first, with overlong, too-frequent intertitles, and a clown-car of seemingly endless characters to introduce... But then all of a sudden it's flowing and everything's working towards this devastating unfolding, this sickening, painful end, so predictable that it hurts to watch it come, and - yes - there it is - Dreyer's power & beauty. Heartwrenching. Quietly overwhelming. Christensen is extraordinary.