Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Carl Theodor Dreyer and OrdetMy Summer with the Danish Filmmaker$

Jan Wahl

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780813136189

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813136189.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM KENTUCKY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.kentucky.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The University Press of Kentucky, 2017. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in KSO for personal use (for details see http://www.kentucky.universitypressscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: null; date: 30 March 2017

(p.109) Appendix C Letters from Denmark

(p.109) Appendix C Letters from Denmark

Carl Theodor Dreyer and Ordet
University Press of Kentucky


81 Dalgas Boulevard Frederiksberg F.

September 26th, 1955

Dear Jan,

I thank you for your letter and for your sending me the first half of your book for my consideration. I appreciate very much this act of friendship.

According to your wish I have made some corrections and crossed out some sections particularly in the part treating your being at Vedersø. I do so partly because some scenes you describe do not appear in the final film, partly because you in this part give so many details interesting to you who little (p.110) by little became one of ours, but uninteresting to those who some day are going to read your book. And I did so for your sake as well as my own sake.

I think you ought to mention that the actress who played the part of Inger and in the film should give birth to a child in fact was pregnant in life and actually gave birth to her own child in the middle of the film, so when she came back from the clinic and was to make the child-bed scene she knew what it was all about.

I am now going to answer all your questions.

“In a lens darkly” is an excellent title, only if I were you I should omit the title of Sheridan le Fanu's book.

The plan and composition of your book is excellent too, not too dry or skeleton-like. Easy to read.

As to the person of Christ: I do not see him at all, but the first time I happen to meet him I'll know it is HE!

I intend doing the Jesus-film in color—and for wide-screen—and for CinemaScope if wanted.

I am of course at liberty to end the account of the life of Jesus wherever it pleases me: after the trial before Pilate, after the crucifixion, or after the resurrection. To me it seems most logical to end the film with the crucifixion. According to Isaiah!

My “floating shots”? Well, we have a lot of “floating close-ups” in this film [Ordet], some of them to a length of 5–6–7–8 minutes, or 800–1,000 feet long. This method of course gives a rhythm different from the rhythm of a scene cut up in 20–30 close-ups. The “floating close-ups” demand a precise camera-car-work and careful rehearsing.

Is there any item I particularly want you to include in (p.111) the book? Yes, I am a little sorry that you do not mention my film made in Berlin [about 1921]: The Stigmatized [based on Danish author Aage Madelung's fine novel Elsker hverander].

The French “réalisateur” is positively better than both the American-English “director” and the Danish “instruktør.”

I shall be pleased if you'll use my essay on color films as an appendix, but in that case you ought together with it publish not only my essay “On Film-Style” [printed in Films-in-Review 1, no. 3 (January 1952)] but also the lecture Igave at the Edinburgh Festival on the 30th of August: “New Impulses in Film.” In fact the three treatises complete each other. The lecture has the same length as the two others. If you are interested, please let me know, and I shall send you a typewritten copy in the English language.

I have no connection with de Rochemont or any other company.

I saw Blevins Davis a few weeks ago in London. He is interested more than ever in making the Jesus-film, so I hope very soon to go to Israel and start the preparatory work that has to be done down there. By the way: before you give your book to a publisher, please kindly send a copy to Mr. Davis—or authorize me to give him my copy to read. He might possibly help you to a good publisher! The photo of Joan of Arc on the black background with the gray matting is fine. My photo is less good. Couldn't you instead take the drawing by Dorothy Lovell?

I am not in Rungsted this year. I went to Venice for two days and from there to Edinburgh. I have been all summer in Copenhagen. My wife, my daughter and son are at present in Spain. They have hired a house outside Barcelona. I shall (p.112) certainly give my wife your regards. She remembers you very well and with sympathy.

The Spook Sonata? Well, of course it can be made, only I am afraid it is a little too early. Don't you think so? But in 4–5 years perhaps.

I thank you for the two subscriptions which you mention in your letter [The Saturday Review of Literature and The Moving Image].

I also thank you for your commentary on the new films.

Mr. and Mrs. Michael Weyl are about to leave Copenhagen. I have not seen them in a long time.

I thank you again for giving me the opportunity to read your script. It will be sent as an ordinary letter registered.

And now, with all good wishes and with my kindest regards.

Very sincerely yours

Carl Th. Dreyer



Copenhagen, Feb. 8th 1957

Mr. Jan Wahl

2116 Potomac Drive

Toledo 7



Dear friend,

I am glad you liked the book I sent for Christmas, and I (p.113) am looking forward to receive Porgy. I cannot make any definite date on the Charleston journey, since I do not yet know what Blevins Davis is planning. It is up to him to decide. If he thinks it wise to postpone the Jesus-film, I shall of course only be happy to go ahead with another production—and Porgy is as you know one of my favorite ideas.

As to Ordet you had better advise Rochemont to contact Blevins Davis.

I thank you for the two nice cuts from my Joan of Arc film. It was indeed very sweet of you to put them on your letter as an ornament.

Sincerest wishes

Carl Th. Dreyer



18th April 1959

My dear friend,

In fact, I was a little surprised as I read in the papers that you had arrived in this country to work as secretary for Karen Blixen, and that I didn't get a single word from you. We were expecting you, and we should have been very pleased if we had seen you here at home. Now everything is explained and we cannot do anything but express our sympathy.

We are glad to hear that you have a very exclusive publisher, Macmillan, interested in your novel and that another publisher is interested in your poetry. As for your film book I hope it will become a palpable reality.

(p.114) Since you in a very friendly way ask me if the idea is acceptable to me and if I mind your setting me up against the two others (Murnau and von Stroheim) I shall frankly tell you that I am not very enthusiastic about this line. Since the three of us in my opinion have nothing at all in common. I should very much have preferred to be put together with Elia Kazan and Ernst Lubitsch. With these two I know I have much in common and I am a great admirer of both of them. Or, if that doesn't satisfy you, then together with Seastrom and Mauritz Stiller. But since it is you who are going to write the book it is of course of importance what you personally feel about the matter.

Why do you bind yourself to just 5 films from each one? Isn't that a little artificial or rather little haphazard? Why don't you just say to yourself, I'll concentrate on the essential traits of their individual art?

It seems to me that you are too hard on Charlie Chaplin. On my part I was very happy to see Monsieur Verdoux because I in this film saw signs of an artist looking for new ways, for a new style and for a new outlook for his artistic imagination. I enjoyed all what was new in the film and I disapproved when he fell back on his old-time gags. The King of New York I have unfortunately not seen but I feel it is likely that Chaplin will give us another great film in which he has entirely disengaged himself from his former style.

As to my future plans Mr. Kay Harrison, the European president of Technicolor who also is interested in the Jesus-film, has some months ago made the suggestion that I should make another film before this film, which I have accepted, (p.115) and we are just now talking of a subject which is very close to my heart.

My lovely wife sends you her best wishes and so do I—hoping soon to meet you somewhere.

Most sincerely

Carl Th. Dreyer



Copenhagen F.

March 29th, 1965

Dear Jan Wahl,

I thank you much for your nice little book, The Beast Book! What are you doing now? Anything with film?

Would it be possible for you to send me a single copy of your Beast Book? To be paid for, of course. I know a little girl who would be happy for it.

With best regards


Carl Th. Dreyer

We hope to see you soon!



Copenhagen F. 20/5 1965

Dear Jan Wahl—

I thank you much for your letter of May 11th. I am glad (p.116) that you like the article by Elsa Gress. She has fought bravely for Gertrud.

The idea about Maria Callas is splendid, and she might be interested, because such a film will bear witness to posterity of her remarkable power as a dramatic actress. But will she be able to free herself from the theatrical services … for about a couple of months, or maybe less.

At any rate I must have an American producer behind me.

Please read the Spring number of Sight and Sound. There is a fine article on Gertrud.

I hope we shall meet at the Festival in New York.

Kindest regards

Very sincerely

Carl Th. Dreyer



Copenhagen F.

May 30th 1965

Dear Mr. Wahl,

Since my last letter I have been in touch with Paramount's Paris office. M. Henri Michaud to whom I mentioned your splendid idea with regard to the actress to play Medea. He seemed earnestly interested and would write the President about the matter. I shall of course keep you informed.

I thank you for the booklet The Beast Book. It will one (p.117) of these days be forwarded to one of my girl friends—5½ year old. Her name is Birgitte. Isn't it poetic?

She'll enjoy it.

My best regards


Carl Th. Dreyer (p.118)