The Day of Wrath - 1943

Vredens dag - 1943

Based on a play by Hans Wiers-Jenssen who bas the play on the true story of Anne Pedersdotter, a "witch" from Norway.
Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
Kirsten Andreasen ...
Sigurd Berg ...
Albert Høeberg ... The Bishop
Harald Holst ...
Emanuel Jørgensen ...
Sophie Knudsen ...
Preben Lerdorff Rye ... Martin (Absalon's son, Anne's lover)
Lisbeth Movin ... Anne Pedersdotter (Absalon's second wife)
Preben Neergaard ... Degn
Sigrid Neiiendam ... Merete (Absalon's mother)
Emilie Nielsen ...
Thorkild Roose ... Rev. Absalon Pederssøn
Hans Christian Sørensen ...
Anna Svierkier ... Herlofs Marte
Olaf Ussing ... Laurentius
Dagmar Wildenbrück
Released: 24 April 1948 (USA)

The movie "Vredens dag" but perhaps better known under its English name, The Day of Wrath, is a movie that truly belongs here in the world of Mr.Doctor. The movie was directed by one of Mr.Doctor's favourite movie makers Carl Theodor Dreyer (the other being F.W. Murnau). The Day of Wrath was the main inspiration behind the album Dies Irae (which also means Day of Wrath).
So what is this movie all about? What makes this such a great movie that it has inspired THE MAN to write the wonderful album that we now know as Dies Irae?
Day of Wrath is a black and white movie that was released in 1943 and directed by Carl T. Dreyer and is based on a play from Hans Wiers-Jenssen that was performed in 1909. The play, entitled Anne Pedersdotter, consists of four acts and is based on a true story that took place in the 16th century (although during the 68th minute of the movie the date 1639 can be seen although the real Anne Pedersdotter was burned alive on the stake in 1590). It is actually one of the most known cases of alleged witchcraft in Norway (the other being the case of Lisbeth Nypan) and next to the before mentioned play and the movie Vredens Dag also the opera La Fiamma (1934) by the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi was inspired by these events and in 1971 another opera by Edvard Fliflet Bræin entitled Anne Pedersdotter was based on the same play from Hans Wiers-Jenssen.

An old woman named Herlofs Marte is accused of being a witch and is trying to hide from her accusers by trying to hide in the house of Anne (played by Lisbeth Movin), a woman who married a religious man when she was still a child. The mother of Anne was accused of witchcraft but saved by the very man that was now her husband: Absalon Pedersson (played by Thorkild Roose).
Herlofs Marte is aware of this fact and after she is captured she tries to cut a deal with Absalon by saying she will denounce his wife as witch and that his wife possesses the same powers as her mother (the power of wishing people dead). Anne eavesdrops on this conversation and the allegations have caught her attention. Meanwhile Herlofs Marte gets tortured for confession but keeps the secret concerning Anne's mother to herself and she is burned alive on stake.
Absalon's mother Merete (Sigrid Neijendam) dislikes Anna and disapproves of their marriage because Absalon's son Martin is several years younger than his new mother. Martin is drawn to Anne apparently by the new found powers of Anne and they kiss. Anne is not in love with Absalon and nor does she think he loves her and she tells Martin this later on in the movie (during the storm scene). Anne clearly feels love for Martin and her whole being changes, she feels happy and even laughs. That is something that bothers Absalon as he has never heard her laugh in his own presence. All this fuels Merete's suspicious about Anne.

When a storm erupts Absalon has to return home and as he does he has the feeling that he has been touched by death and that his end is nigh. This occurs at the same time as one of the most briliant scenes of this movie takes place: Anne is now fully aware of her ability as witch and the power to decide over life and death and wishes her husband dead and tells Martin about her thoughts but does not wish him dead directly in front of Martin but just says what if her husband would be dead (while she actually wishes him dead in her mind). When Absalon comes home he tells Martin that he felt as if death held him by the hand while in a corner Anna is observing her husband. Absalon gives his apologies to his wife for taking away her youth (after asking her if she wished him dead) and this is the turning point were Anna reveals her true colours and tells her husband she wished him dead hundreds of times and wishes him dead right there and then after confessing she and his son are together...Absalon dies while calling for his son and Anna screams...
Anna promises Martin she was not the cause of her fathers dead and a funeral takes place where Merete accuses Anne of murdering Absalon and Martin denies the charges but Merete is adamant and claims Martin is under Anne her spell and denouces her as witch. Martin is drawn towards his grandmother and Anna has now lost all... She confesses at her husbands coffin that she has murdered him with the help from the devil and lured his son into her power... the confession seems like a relief to Anna but also has sealed her fate as a witch...

This movie is truely one of the better black and white movies ever made due to Dreyer's (and Karl Andersson's) magnificent use of shadows or perhaps better said, the many shades of grey. The shades set an emotion, like the house covered in shadow and just faces being lit to show their expression, shadows falling over objects giving away perhaps little clues of what is to unveil before them seconds after. But also for instance during the funeral scene at the end of the movie you can see how well Dreyer uses shadows for the facial expression of Anna, it shows both hopes and fears. The big contrast is the fact that when light is shown outside it is either to burn "a witch" or to portay the forbidden love between Anna and Martin.
Another remarkable thing about the use of shadows is how it enhances the acting of Lisbeth Movin. While not saying anything you can read her emotions from her eyes but only when she is in a certain position with the light (or shadow) one can see her true feelings. Her anger, her despair, her love, her evil, her power.. especially when she wishes her husband dead and the confession at the funeral.
Yet another striking aspect about this movie is its film score or better said, the lack of film score. Besides the chants of the children before the buring of Herlofs Marta and the end of the movie, the opening music and a bit of violin during the scene where Martin reacts to Anna's spell and kisses her, there is virtually no film score whatsoever. Most movies both old and new heavily rely on the film score to express emotions, to scare people, to make a story more believable and enhance the experience. Though there is hardly any film score his movie is credible, you go along with the story that never bores, taken in and the total shock that Anna actually confesses to the allegations. The chants by the children before the burning of Herlofs Marte deserve a mentioning of its own due to the contrast it brings in the movie, the children sing songs of God while before their eyes a woman is burned alive.


...among the trees...