Carl Theodor DreyerDenmark116 minutes1964B&WDanish
Scorned and derided on its initial release, Carl Dreyer's final film — about a retired opera singer quixotically seeking transcendence in romantic passion — has since earned a reputation as one of cinema's most modern, profound, and beautiful works.
A cinephile's dream: unavailable in North America for more than three decades, Gertrud cannot be seen too many times. "The last masterpiece of one of the greatest of directors" (David Thomson), or, as Godard had it, "equal, in madness and beauty, to the last works of Beethoven," Dreyer's final film, like Antonioni's L'Avventura, elicited scorn and derision at its world premiere (in Paris in 1964) and then quickly earned a reputation as one of cinema's most modern, profound, and beautiful works. Gertrud is the story of a retired opera singer (Nina Pens Rode), married to a prominent lawyer and budding politician, whose quixotic search for transcendence in romantic passion leads her to demand a complete, radical freedom. Pristinely composed and psychologically intense, Gertrud has the majestic solemnity of a ritual; while some critics denounced it as "a two-hour study of sofas and pianos," it has been extravagantly lauded by the likes of Andrew Sarris ("the kind of masterpiece that deepens with time because it is already aged in the heart of a great artist"), Jonathan Rosenbaum ("one of the ten greatest films in the history of cinema"), John Russell Taylor ("a masterpiece which is so essentially cinematic in its nature that it is almost impossible to convey in words exactly how it works"), David Thomson ("it awaits the world's discovery as Dreyer's finest film"), and David Robinson ("a unique and rewarding experience, a film of complete purity and something like perfection").