The Vampiric Vanity project, which became a turning point in horror

The big picture

  • Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer was an ambitious pioneer of early cinema who was determined to create a work of art that would set the standard for future films.
  • Dreyer’s silent masterpiece, vampireis the product of a visionary director and a wealthy man who wanted to try acting, which made his success all the more intriguing.
  • vampire takes a subtle and stylish approach to horror, tapping into human fears and conveying them in creative ways that defy the conventions of the genre. The film’s use of sound, editing and cinematography is innovative and ahead of its time.

The name Carl Theodor Dreyer is probably not known to the average moviegoer. A Danish auteur whose nearly 50-year career produced only a dozen films, he was an ambitious pioneer of early cinema who always wanted to push the boundaries. In one Letter he wrote to potential supporters early in his careerHe said, “I will aim to create a work of art that will set the benchmark for future films,” and he achieved that in his own unique way. As a film historian Casper Tybjerg Dreyer was a determined artist who did everything he could to bring his ideas to life. Following his now classic but simultaneously disappointing run with The Passion of Joan of ArcDreyer wanted to do something different and, through a series of interesting twists and turns, eventually delved into the horror genre with his silent masterpiece, 1932’s vampire. What he didn’t see coming was the involvement of a wealthy baron Nicolas de Gunzburg would accompany his latest project from the idea to the finished product.

What is “Vampyr” about?

Vampire (1932) (1)

vampire is the short, simple story of a young man named Allan Gray who is something of a spiritualist and susceptible to strange energies. When he stops at a riverside pub in the French countryside, he is overwhelmed by a mysterious presence that unsettles him throughout the day and nights. One night, a strange old man wanders into his room and places a package on his desk marked “To be opened after my death.” When ghostly shadows lure Allan to a country estate, he witnesses the murder of the resident – and it is none other than the strange old man from the inn. The rest of the family invites Allan to stay with them and he unpacks the mysterious package left for him to find a book about vampires, which leads him to realize that there is something supernatural at play that he must finish.

“Vampyr” is a product of early 20th century art

Vampyr film from 1932
Image via Conti-Film

It’s a remarkably adventurous piece of cinema, far more in keeping with the emerging Surrealist art film movement of its time; Luis Bunuel And Salvador Dalí has teamed up for two iconic surrealist images, Un Chien Andalou And L’Age d’Orwhile Jean Cocteau explored the avant-garde with The blood of a poet. Such artists broke out and shook off the constraints of the studio system that had largely dominated feature films up to that point. Like any good indie production, this forced the filmmakers to get creative and arguably try a lot harder than they otherwise would have to. Because money was tight, filming was cheap on location shooting with minimal equipment and often unknown actors. Their interest wasn’t really in making money – although that couldn’t hurt – but in creating something truly unique, expanding their own artistic minds and exploring ideas in ways audiences had never seen before.

It was within that environment vampire was born. Tybjerg’s extremely informative article Waking life Details about the background and production of the filmand exactly how and why it became what it was. It explains that after the financial failure of Joan of Arc, the studio bigwigs Dreyer had worked with got cold feet about his bankability as a director and pulled the plug on his next project. Far from being deterred by this step, Dreyer used it as an opportunity to rethink his next step and became increasingly inspired by it Sheridan Le Fanuis the groundbreaking gothic horror novel CarmillaHis goal was to bring some sophistication to the then-fledgling horror genre, and the timing was perfect.

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The early 20th century was marked by a boom in spiritualism and curiosity about the supernatural. Séances and stage magic became increasingly popular, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – a man of science and logic – spent his life chasing the possibility of the supernaturaland was even led to believe that they were two little girls in northern England had captured photographic evidence of fairies. Occult and otherworldly themes were at the forefront of the public consciousness, and obviously this flowed into the stories explored in cinema’s early years.

A wealthy aristocrat financed “Vampyr”

Julian West in Vampire 1932
Image via Conti-Film

So Dreyer had his idea, but what he needed now was money. Luckily for him, he happened to meet a flamboyant and very wealthy young socialite named Nicolas de Gunzburg. Up to this point of time Günzburg had led a life full of extravagance and leisureHe attends and hosts lavish parties, enchants guests with his skills as a dancer and storyteller, and meets the right people. According to a Vanity Fair Profile of Günzburg, his later life would lead him to discover talents like Lauren Bacall And Calvin Klein and serves as an editor for a number of influential magazines such as: Fashion And Harper’s Bazaar. But the springboard into these later careers was probably his meeting with Dreyer, who said he had a film in the works if he could only raise the money. And as it turned out, Günzburg had always dreamed of trying his hand at the old acting thing.

So many sources from Professor Tybjerg to Vanity Fair An agreement was reached between the two men: Günzburg would finance a film if he could star in it. This worked for Dreyer and they set about making it vampire. It’s one of those entertainment stories that has become a legend in its own right, a series of stars who created something truly unforgettable. Although it would be Günzburg’s only acting credit, his work would continue vampire, both as an actor and a producer, is a very striking part of the amazing patchwork that was his life, and there is no doubt that he put a lot of heart into what he did. This film between Gunzburg and Dreyer was the product of crazy artists doing things their own way, and the pairing resulted in a classic piece of cinema that is far more sophisticated and artistically fine-tuned than you would expect from a film of its time would expect from his place.

“Vampyr” takes a surrealistic approach to horror

Vampire (1932)-1
Image via Conti-Film

Although you could never blame him vampire Although scary by modern standards, it has an eerie otherworldliness that is unsettling, and it always strives for a subtle and stylish approach that defies the conventions of horror as it is known today. It’s about taking the deepest human fears and conveying them in a creative way that evokes an emotional response from the audience. One particularly brilliant sequence – one that leans heavily on the Buñuel style of dreaminess – shows Allan having an out-of-body experience and witnessing his own death and funeral. This is filmed from the perspective of his lifeless body as he is carried out of the mansion, looking straight up at the looming building and dull sky, towards the fields where he is buried. The scene reveals his deepest fears, fueled by what is undoubtedly a supernatural event, and provides a glimpse into what it might look like to be undead for eternity and why it is so important that he put an end to the nightmare. It’s the perfect mix of relatable human fear and fairytale threat.

The heavy style with which vampire is quite remarkable: in a time when there is neither the luxury of easily portable cameras nor a sense of physical freedom on set, the film goes to considerable lengths to do something a little different. There’s a lot of handheld camerawork from a perspective that refuses to sit still, and it creates an eerie voyeuristic feeling. The camera follows the characters as they walk, run and leave rooms; It lurks behind furniture and objects as if it were spying on them. A surprising amount of effort is put into the image composition and choreography, with lots of long shots panning and panning to follow the action. One particularly inspired sequence uses double exposure to give Allan a translucent, ghostly appearance as he investigates the wrongdoings of the mad village doctor who he suspects may be involved in the chaos. It couldn’t have been easy to pull it off so well, but the experienced director clearly put a lot of heart and thought into this work, even if he didn’t have studio money. Despite the strangely impressive set pieces, there is a certain subtlety vampire That’s what gives the whole thing its bite: it’s always careful to minimally put off the audience, so it all feels a little uneasy but not enough to arouse suspicion, like an old house that’s built ever so slightly crooked.

It can be argued that the film industry – even the art world in general – has reached several creative peaks since the beginning of the 20th century, and each of them was reactionary in nature. While artists like Dreyer and Buñuel were relatively early figures in the history of cinema, the art of their time was being upended by countercultural movements, mostly in response to the First World War. This is how Dadaism came into being, in which all sense of logic and order was rebelled in favor of radical expression by any means necessary. It was essentially a giant middle finger to cultural norms, and this is often where the best kind of art comes from. That makes it all the more amusing vampire was made possible by the imaginative ambitions of an aristocrat who simply wanted to be an actor, only to end up becoming a hugely impressive piece of cinema that is now, in its centenary year, remembered as a classic that embodied the best of its influence the horror genre for decades.

Dustin Huang

Dustin Huang is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Dustin Huang joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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