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Dark Masterpiece! Incredible cinematography!
15 years after The Passion of Joan of Arc, Dreyer returns to the concept of burning women at the stake in Day of Wrath, a talky, a talky but still awash with a silent cinema atmosphere, stark sets, expressionistic lighting, and faces and body language often telling more than the dialog. In Dreyer's world, God and the Devil are real forces, whether active entities, or merely symbols for virtue and sin, is something left ambiguous (and yet). The film opens and closes on verses from Revelations, but shows a more intimate Apocalypse, epic passages writ on the personal, individual level. In the wake of a witch being burned, the preacher's all-too-young wife falls in love with her husband's more vital son who has just returned home. So sin is definitely at play, but is she necessarily communing with the Evil One? Therein lies the suspense - fear of discovery, of accusation founded or unfounded, in a world where women especially can be murdered by a pointing finger - that makes the film so riveting despite being really rather quiet and introspective. If the staging sometimes feels old-fashioned, Dreyer captures subtle performances that demand examination. It's required if one is to make sense of so complex a study of the relationship between sin and guilt, which I think is at the heart of the matter - guilt defining what is virtuous or sinful.
Dark, gloomy, and slow moving in places. But beautifully photographed and an excellent work of art.
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In 13 official lists
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This movie ranks #22 in IMDb's 1940s Top 50
This movie ranks #26 in IMDb's History Top 50
This movie ranks #101 in Harvard's Suggested Film Viewing: Narrative Films
This movie ranks #123 in Amos Vogel's Film as a Subversive Art
This movie ranks #128 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #190 in Anthology Film Archives's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #210 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
This movie ranks #220 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #266 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
This movie ranks #273 in UNESCO's Memory of the World
This movie ranks #276 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #346 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown
This movie ranks #650 in TSZDT's The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films