Vampyr is the product of growth. An inherent need and desire to adapt to the ever-shifting genre notations is one aspect of this Carl Theodor Dryer work, but another is his inherent longing for change. It is this change that paved the way for future directors. He is the great magician of the camera, influencing those that came long after his time. But Vampyr is another sad case where the art it influences is far superior. It is not a hard margin to leap over, for without its technical excess and merit, this late 1920s Dryer piece is aggressively dull.
Dreyer cannot hide behind visuals alone. We must understand that, immediately, Dreyer has made a very grand and technically engaged film. His production is of high quality, and visually provides natural elements that would work their way into the mindset of many filmmakers. These moments are lacking in feeling or sentiment. They are products of a man figuring the camera out and playing with what the world of film could offer. We must encourage experimentation, but we must also coax entertainment and even adaptability out of that. With Vampyr, the technical respects are there, but it is a cold and calculated film, one that has no real desire to expand upon anything emotively charged.
Its tale of Allan Gray (Nicolas de Gunzburg) and his fascination with vampires is dull and does not offer us, the audience, any desire or need to think on their actions. Its primitive storytelling a direct result of the inflated stylings of the camera. Impressive camera works can only take us so far though, and as Vampyr wanes on, the frustrations begin to mount. Vampyr has value through its visuals, but its story is undesirable, bland and cheap. Much of its thought-provoking moments are projections of an audience, rather than a concrete theme or thought from Dreyer. He is too busy twiddling with the camera knobs or rotating the axis to care for engaging with an audience. We are to sit and watch cinema expand, and while there is beauty to that, it is neither interesting nor emotively captivating. Others managed that blend with ease.
Appreciating the context of the times and seeing how film has aged is not always an engaging experience. Sometimes, emotion is needed. What makes the finest films so enjoyable is emotion. It is why we return to our favourites so often and avoid those heavy-hitters that we may watch solely to see the artistic capabilities of the world on offer. Vampyr has neither entertainment nor quality within it. Dreyer pushed the bar for what films could offer, but his inherent lack of connection to an audience is the sad sacrifice he makes for the occasional good shot or half-decent special effect. Disorienting at times. It is a film that now has the added benefit of being an achingly important example of camera and technical utilisation, but without this history, Vampyr is a slog of emotionless, gruelling workmanship. Why show an audience the excitement and terror when a block of text will do?