>Carl Theodor Dreyer: They Caught the Ferry, 1948

>I recently posted on Carl Th. Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), which left me stunned and profoundly moved like I have not been from a film in quite a while. Dreyer, however, had a spotty career and did not make many feature films. Most of his films where not popular either, though his reputation as a great filmmaker remained intact. He was the classic struggling genius. To supplement his income he occasionally made short films for hire. Below is a short that still shows his innovative eye and, maybe his tendency to push the limits of sound judgement in order to produce the necessary sense of realism.

The film is They Caught the Ferry (De nåede færgen, 11 min, 1948). The film was a work of propaganda to encourage drivers to not speed; there were no speed limits in Denmark in 1948. The question is whether the couple in the film will catch the ferry in this life, or the one that crosses over to the next.

In the documentary Carl Th. Dreyer: My Metier (1995), we hear from Jørgen Roos, the cinematographer on the film, about the story of its making, including his near death when they ran the motorcycle into a tree. Not once did they falsely speed up the action via film speed. All the action was filmed at full speed.

I believe that if I was a young man watching this film in the theaters back in 1948 I would have thought that riding a motorcycle that fast looked exciting. I would probably have wanted to go out and get myself a motorcycle right away. I doubt this film helped to reduce traffic accidents, though it is interesting to see what Dreyer did for hire. This copy has the characters speaking Danish, the subtitles in English, and voice over in Russian.

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