Vredens dag – Day of Wrath (1943)

Film review: Vredens dag [Day of Wrath] (1943), directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer

Upon seeing a film where the information says it’s Danish and about the Inquisition, I knew I had to watch it. Danish film! Haven’t seen too many of those!

In Vredens dag, we first meet Herlofs Marte (Anna Svierkier), an old wise woman, who is treating another woman with some herbal medicine. Shouts can be heard from outside – a posse has gathered to arrest her for being a witch. Herlofs Marte escapes through a back door and goes to the house of the local priest.

The priest’s wife, young Anne (Lisbeth Movin), is compelled to aid her when the old woman threatens to denounce Anne as a witch too if she doesn’t. After all, Anne’s mother was burned at the stake … and her stern mother-in-law (Sigrid Neiiendam) has always treated Anne with the utmost suspicion because of it.

The old lady is found and arrested, and she tries again to convince the priest, Absalon (Thorkild Roose), that basically: hey, your mother-in-law was a witch, do you think I’m going to pass on the opportunity to bring Anne down with me? Absalon has a dilemma, as he technically protected Anne from implications, and Herlofs Marte is asking him to do the same for her.

Fortunately, his adult son from a first marriage is about to come home from his long education, and that is sure to make everything better. Right?

Not if your son, Martin (Preben Lerdorff Rye), is a strapping young lad of about the same age as his pretty stepmother, and you are twice her age and haven’t been able to give her children or be much fun as a husband. Martin and Anne soon have a thing for one another …

Fascinating film, on the whole. Some lovely nature shots, some indoor shots that didn’t exactly scream 1600s to me – like with the clothes. Indoors, it was always very bare, as well. Hardly any furniture about, or anything else for that matter. It was like a stage play in that respect, very spartan.

The love story wasn’t particularly engaging, but I thought the whole film was well-acted. Herlofs Marte really stood out for me. At first, my sympathies were with her whole-heartedly, and then, she threatens to bring down a young woman for no reason? Gee, charitable one, you are! But then, as we find out why she’s doing that – not strictly out of spite – sympathies again turn towards her. When she’s completely bare after torture, it’s not just her body that is naked, but her very soul. Extraordinary.

The mother-in-law was as charming as the Mater in The Virgin and the Gipsy, except she wasn’t blind. Absalon is completely crushed by her, and oh gods does the man brood a lot. But still, the film was more enjoyable than I expected. Not only that, but it’s also a look into Danish history, and about a period in time that is of great interest to me, and hey, I can understand bits of what they’re saying without reading the subtitles! 😀 That’s gotta count for something, right?

3.7 out of 5 bogs.

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