Month: September 2010

Shadow Puppets: ‘Vampyr – Der Traum des Allan Grey’

This 1932 silent horror was truly a delight to my 6th sense, the sense for all things uncanny. 🙂 Loosely based on Sheridan LeFanu’s now almost legendary cult piece, ‘Carmilla’, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s film follows the steps of Allan Grey (played by baron Nicolas de Gunzburg, better known under the stage name of Julian West), a young man fascinated by the darker side of the occult. Throughout the film, Allan struggles to save two young sisters, Léone (played by Sybille Schimtz) and Giséle (played by Rena Mandel), from the clutches of a mysterious vampire (in fact a nefarious elderly woman played by Henriette Gérard) and its faithful assistant, a Faustian country doctor (played by Jan Hieronimko).

What is most fascinating abot Dreyer’s film is, first of all, the atmosphere he manages to create. Despite the abundance of plot summaries one can find on-line, the storyline of ‘Vampyr’ is not, I would say, so simple. A lot of what is happening is suggested, rather than clearly shown. There is a lot of play with shadows, which set a surreal, eerie mood, and, I would add, a lot comes also from the sheer use of facial expressions, a nice play on phrenology. All in all, the film is a feast of sensations, and can be read as a display of effects of human fear. Allan Grey’s point of view in the movie is constantly ambiguous, leaving room for doubt. It might well be that nothing of what he (thinks) he sees is, in fact, real. It might all be a trick of his imagination and sickly fascination with the occult.

There are other elements which suggest that all might not be quite as it seems, and which allow for a double (or multiple) reading of the storyline. Some of them are to be found towards the end of te film, like Allan’s obsessive vision of himself in a coffin, or his escape with Giséle in a boat over the misty river.

Dreyer reportedly told his cameraman, ‘Imagine we are sitting in an ordinary room. Suddenly we are told that there is a corpse behind the door. In an instant, the room we are sitting in is completely altered: everything in it has taken on another level; the light, the atmosphere have changed, though they are physically the same. This is because “we” have changed… This is the effect I want to get.’ This is cited in numerous on-line sources dealing with Dreyer’s movie (here, for instance), and I feel that this is precisely the effect that ‘Vampire’ manages to produce. The blurry shots and many-faced symbols Dreyer uses keep the viewer constantly on the edge. ‘Vampyre’ is a wonderfully uncanny trompe l’oeil.

For those who wish to watch it, the film is currently available in its entirety on youtube.


Tag: Twenty Things I Like

Why, hello LiveJournal, I haven’t seen you in a long time. I guess tumblr is much handier for slackers such as I. Oh, the effortless posting of selected images/videos/music/quotations with little to no comments about them! But thanks to Ram @ people versus people I am now officially back and willing to bore whomsoever might be interested with random facts about my (undoubtedly) fascinating person. 🙂 Oh yes, the infamous Ram lovingly tagged me to share with the world (or world-wide-web) twenty things I like. So here we go (random order):

1. Books: old books, new books, e-books (sometimes), you name it. Books are my life, and they’re probably going to be the death of me, too. I love to read them and I strive to write them. 🙂
2. Elegant Gothic Lolita, Dolly Style, and all alternative clothing styles that have a dusty, ethereal feel to them. Anything to make me feel that I’m living inside a fairy tale world (macabre shades and all).
3. My laptop, mobile phone and iPod. The three wonders of technology I cannot live without, and which often prove successfully therapeutic. I like to take them everywhere I go, we’ve shared so many wonderful moments…
4. History magazines, especially National Geographic (yes, I am completely aware it does not solely deal with historical subjects) and Les Cahiers de Science et Vie. There was a time in my life when I was actually planning to read History at uni.
5. German Expressionist films and/or films inspired from/ reminiscent of German Expressionism. I feel they are uncannily fascinating, with their dark mood and often tragic characters.
6. Magic and alchemy. Possibly the most creative and inspiring crafts humankind has evered attempted to explore. 🙂
7. Japanese pop culture, with its tempting mix of originality and kitsch, old Japanese and new Occidental elements.
8. Point and click adventure games. These are the sort of games that can keep me focused and entertained for hours, the perfect brainwash.
9. Blogging/ Microblogging: it’s stress relief and it helps me keep track of things I like, stuff I’ve stumbled upon etc.
10. Dolls: porcelain dolls, ball-jointed dolls and musical dolls, mostly. But I’m even more taken with real “doll art”, amazing pieces such as those created by Julien Martinez and Marina Bychkova.
11. Sitting down in a tea house and savouring some insane tea variety. I like to try out different flavours every time, each cup of tea reveals a whole new dimension.
12. A cup of strong Arabic coffe sweetened with brown sugar and ‘tempered’ with cold milk. Some say I’m a caffeine addict…
13. Staying in a book store for hours, just enjoying the smell of fresh ink and sifting through random books and magazines. Makes me forget there’s a world outside.
14. Clocks and watches. I like to wear my wristwatch, ring clock and clock pendant at the same time. xD I’m currently dreaming to buy a pair of clock earrings (working clock earrings, mind!).
15. Steampunk:
16. Pizza Ristorante: vegetale picante. I could eat it every day, three times a day. xD As the website says: Piquant jalapenos, sweet grilled peppers and juicy red onions combined with sizzling cheese make this pizza a veggie feast!
17. Museums. I see them as safekeepers of secrets that can no longer be revealed. With each item on display I get to wonder what was the real story behind it.
18. Photographs, old and new. Shards of human souls smeared on card and paper. I wish I was more skilled in photography myself. Sadly, I have a long way to go.
19. Plush toys. Those cuddly balls of fluff are absolutly irresistible. They occupy the other half of my house, the one that’s not taken over by books.
20. Vintage postcards. I have recently started collecting them, and I like the challenge of tracing their origins: who took the initial photo, who printed them, who sent them to whom and why.

Well, that’s me, I guess. Passing this on to anyone who’s interested. ^_^