Carl Theodor Dreyer Stanley Kauffmann - Essay

Stanley Kauffmann

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In "Gertrud"] Mr. Dreyer's theme—the suffering of a woman who finds that men do not devote themselves entirely to love, that they also concern themselves with their careers—can just as easily be seen as feminine egotism instead of male egotism. But this whole subject of Love as Life can hardly be taken seriously today. The script seems a pallid post-Ibsen revolt against the idea of woman as chattel or toy…. The spiritual hierarchy of the sexes in "Gertrud" seems as dated as the costumes.

But Mr. Dreyer takes this [Hjalmar] Soderberg play seriously—one index that he is out of touch. Worse, his technique is the least fluently cinematic of any work of his that I know.

Its slowness will not surprise those familiar with Dreyer. His tempos have always been deliberate. But here his camera movement and his editing defy the minimal drama in the script….

But in his best films there has always been an underlying human concern that sustained us through any longueurs of execution. Here, under the slow, posed pictures, there is nothing but the dated theme described above.

The man whose intense love for men informed so many well-wrought films will probably never be forgotten as long as films are remembered. Whether or not one likes all of his works, there is in his life and person a quality that can be called angelic. "Gertrud," however, is the work—not of a fallen angel—but of a very old one.

Stanley Kauffmann, "'Gertrud'," in The New York Times (© 1966 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), June 3, 1966, p. 33.