Michael (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1924) | Part 1


“Michael is obviously dazzled by the intimations of high society he glimpses in Zoret’s salon, and bewitched as much by the glamour of his Princess’s position, by the flattery of her attentions to him, as by her beauty. He is also constantly preoccupied with money, unable to understand why Zoret refuses to sell a series of humble sketches which could be sold for a fortune, obviously delighting in spending, as much on himself as on the Princess (witness the expensive clutter of his room), and finally stooping to steal Zoret’s prized sketches. Zoret himself, though professing to despise his success, is distraught when he is shown a newspaper criticism that derides his portrait of the Princess, except for the eyes painted by Michael (“one could almost swear that they were painted by a different hand”, says the critic), and suggests that he has lost his powers. Even the romantic young woman, toying tragically with her love affair with a handsome Count, has a wealthy husband in the background, presumably married for his money. All these details are in the film, but only just, since they are never stressed, barely even mentioned, and could be interpreted quite differently. One doesn’t know as one would from a Renoir approach, that Michael isn’t motivated by a genuine love for the Princess, or that the young woman didn’t marry her husband for love, or that Michael’s desire to see the sketches sold wasn’t disinterested. In fact, one is at liberty to suppose what one likes, since Dreyer is concerned less with the social reasons for behaviour than with the psychological cause and effect, in this case the strange bewitchments wrought by love.”

-Tom Milne, from ”The Cinema of Carl Dreyer” (1971). Stills in parts 1 and 2 of this set were taken from the US version of “Michael” as it appears on the Masters of Cinema disc, except for the title card, which is from the European version.