Pros: fun to laugh at in retrospect (?), some nice shots
Cons: boring, depressing, awful
"Gertrud," a 1965 film by Carl Theodor Dreyer, is probably the least entertaining film ever made. It is two hours of your life you will never get back. Two hours that seem like two years.
The movie is Danish and has subtitles.
The premise of the film makes it sound relatively interesting. Gertrud is married to a man named Gustav who is about to become a government minister. He is optimistic about his promotion, but Gertrud is melancholy because she is not sure she wants to remain married to Gustav, since she is in love with a younger man, an artist named Erland. She and Erland meet secretly and it is obvious why she prefers him. He is young, handsome, artistic and seems romantic. The plot is further complicated when two former lovers enter the picture, Gabriel Lidman (a poet) and Axel, whose profession I don't know. She talks with Axel about their romance in Paris.
Gertrud tells Gustav that she wants a divorce and the poor man is heart-broken. She professes her love to Erland, who turns out to be a young, reckless party animal who has gotten a woman pregnant and must marry her instead.
My film professor accurately predicted that watching "Gertrud" would be the worst day or our lives. OK, so maybe it wasn't as bad as the day my turtle died when I was seven years old, but it was pretty agonizing.
So, why is this movie terrible? Absolutely nothing happens during the entire movie. It is entirely based on dialog. My film class TA joked that the only movement in the film is when people get up from one couch and move to another. After a while, everyone in my class (a cinema of about 200 people) started yelling at the screen, "Don't sit down! NO!!! Fade to black! Fade to black!!!" We moaned and groaned as scene after scene began with people sitting and talking. There are hardly even any cuts. The takes in this movie are mind-numbingly long.
The most aggravating part of the movie is that Gertrud doesn't make eye-contact with any of the people she is talking to. She looks wistfully into the distance and says things like, "Love is everything." The characters literally have important conversations with one person standing behind the other. I know that this represents the existential nature of life, etc., but it was painful to watch. I kept wanted to screem, "Look at him!!"
Traumatic events are occuring in these people's lives that would make anyone cry or scream or throw something, but the characters have no emotion. At one point, Gabriel cries quietly and Gertrud once faints while singing. But, someone should have punched someone else or killed themselves or something.
Gertrud's singing is really bad, too.
The only good thing about this movie is that afterward, my friends and I had fun laughing about it and trying to conduct conversations by not looking at each other. A Gertrud-esque conversation conducted by me and my roommate: Me: I must go to bed now. (monotone, not looking at her.) Her: Everyone must sleep. Me: Life is a dream. Her: Sleep is everything.
Dreyer does set up some very nice shots including beautiful mirror shots, which are very difficult to do. However, the movie was simply not realistic. No one talks like that!!
If I had watched this movie on my own and not part of a class, I would definitely not been able to sit through it. Seeing it as a large group was the only thing that made it somewhat worthwhile. Yelling at the screen was cathartic. I feel clensed!
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Adapted from Hjalmar Soderberg's 1919 play of the same title, GERTRUD tells the tale of a woman's search for idealized love and spiritual fulfillment, which takes her beyond the confines of a passionless marriage through a series of affairs that tragically fail to live up to her expectations. Employing restrained direction, stark set design, and long, contemplative shots, Dreyer's swan song is a beautiful, meditative and haunting masterwork. Winner: Venice Film Festival, FIPRESCI Award, 1965.