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Dreyer Diary #4: “Glomdale”

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is running a Carl Th. Dreyer retrospective, appropriately and monolithically titled DREYER, from March 13 - March 31. Here you will find my quick notes as I plunge in deep with the Dane. I hope we learn something as we march forward (and step back) with care.


Walking away from the theatre with Kasman two nights ago, we jockeyed the idea that The Bride of Glomdale (1926) does not need its restoration-approved inter-titles because its language (in a Metz way) is so lucid. An arbitrary tale, some may promote "fable" here, of two lovers separated by a river and greed, Dreyer's film is most fascinating in how it advances since we know what advances. The best example comes early in the picture: our lady, daughter Glomdale, is upset and stomping on a door in the floor; Dreyer's camera looks down at her hot stepping feet diagonally. There is a fade out to black and a title describes what we see next: two rings of young people (male and female) dancing on a meadow, seen from above, happy to be alive in the sun. The echo-circuit is complete, without naive match-cuts, as it repurposes the simple act of moving with the world: anger can be dance, and dance can be fun. Indeed, Glomdale can be lauded for shooting outside, on location. We see real farms plowed by real horses, we see real smoke fill the air, we see a real river rush. So far in my current curriculum, this film is the most interested in "the document" against any affective stylistics as found in later masterpieces. Further, just as Phelps wrote, it is a joyful—even goofy—thing all designed to celebrate youth. There is a lot of kissing. I was surprised to find such explicit foreplay, to see how dancing can lead to fighting, to watch these kids joke around with axes and wood and to see him pin her against a wall.

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