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(1932, Dreyer)
A film from the 1930s

"Who can solve the riddle of life and death or fathom the dark secrets hidden from the light of day?"

Death has always been a mystery. What awaits for us after has been the subject of studies, theories, beliefs, and fantasies, particularly because, well, there's no way to tell. From established religions to cults, from attempts to bring people back from the dead or avoid it altogether. Perhaps those were some of the questions in the mind of Allan Gray, the main character in this film from Carl Theodore Dreyer.

Vampyr follows Gray (Nicolas de Gunzburg) as his studies of devils and vampires take him to the village of Courtempierre. It is there that he finds himself immersed in a dreamlike journey where death is not only a matter of investigation, but a constant threat to him, and everyone around him; especially the family that he's trying to protect.

Early in the film, as Gray arrives at an inn, we see a ferryman that's traveling across the river. His silhouetted image, with the sickle in hand, reminded me of the mythical Charon, the ferryman that carried the souls of the deceased through the river Styx and into Hades. And that image made me wonder about the reality of what we're seeing, how much of it is actually in Gray's mind while in an afterlife dreamlike state.

But that's the thing. Just like death itself, it is never clear what is real and what is a dream. Through the film, Gray himself steps in and out of his body, and experiences hallucinations of his own death. But even if the film doesn't really try to answer its own questions, what really stands out is the imagery that Dreyer presents; from the sickled silhouette that adorns most of the film's promotional pictures, to the images of ghastly soldiers and people marching or dancing; death is everywhere.

This is my second time watching this film and, even though I still find it hard to peg down, I still find it visually mesmerizing and captivating anyway. Much like Gray himself seemed eager to dive into this journey, I was looking forward to rewatching it myself.