If you’ve seen much of Canadian director Guy Maddin’s body of work, it should come as no surprise that he’s rather fond of 1943 Danish period melodrama Vrdens dag (That’s Day of Wrath to you and me).
If you haven’t seen much of Maddin’s body of work, you don’t really have a good excuse. Not only is he one of the most interesting directors cranking out films today, but the Wexner Center has played all of them at various times over the past few years, occasionally bringing Maddin himself along to introduce them and chat about film.
The Wex is welcoming him back again tonight and tomorrow night, but this time he’s coming sans a new film of his own. Instead he’ll be introducing two of his personal favorites, which have influenced his work: Pre-code crime melodrama Blood Money, and the aforementioned Day of Wrath.
Both definitely look, feel and sound like Maddin movies, minus the peculiar artificiality which comes from a conscious recreation of the aesthetic of an older film. Both are black and white and filled with pseudo-operatic music that fluctuates from haunting to booming.
And, in the case of Day of Wrath, the film is small in scope and setting (with a cast of about a half-dozen principals, and one main location), but big in emotions (In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a story with bigger emotions).
It opens in Denmark in the year of our lord 1623. The Reverend Absalon (Thorkild Roose) shares a rectory with his way too young second wife Anne (The strangely beautiful Lisbeth Movin, a small miracle of casting. That’s her in the picture at teh top of the post), his menacingly possessive mother (Sigrid Neiiendam), and a bunch of bizarre collars and hats. Two visitors to their household elicit a firestorm of seething emotions. First is Absalon’s son from his first wife Martin (Preben Lerdorff Rye), who’s closer to his step-mother’s age than his own father, which leads to predictable results, and Herlof’s Marte (Anna Svierkier), an old woman accused of witchcraft (and, apparently, rightly so, based on an early exchange in which she gives someone healing plants grown at the foot of the gallows because, “there is great power in evil.”)
On the run from the torches and pitchforks crowd, the old woman heads to the rectory, as Anne’s mother was similarly accused of witchcraft, but was spared the stake thanks to the timely intervention of Absalon (which is how he wound up with such a hot young wife).
There’s a love triangle, accusations of witchcraft, religious lunacy, revenge, guilt, some witch nudity, a crazy method of killing witches (faster and maybe more merciful than simply burning at the stake, but a lot harder on the face for the first few seconds, I imagine) and lots and lots of funny-looking costumes. It’s like a trashy soap opera version of The Crucible, and certainly not a bad way to spend 97 minutes, particularly if Maddin himself, who has had similar familial love triangles in his own The Saddest Music In the World and Careful, will be chatting it up first.
Day of Wrath screens at 8:30 p.m., but get there way early, as the program begins an hour and a half earlier with an introduction to the double-feature by Maddin.
The Mind of Maddin: Bood Money and Day of Wrath will be playing at the Wexner Center’s Film/Video Theatre Thursday and Friday, May 24 and May 25, at 7 p.m. For more info, click to wexarts.org