Arguably Dreyer’s masterpiece, Gertrud, his final film, centres on a woman, loved by four different men, who rejects the compromise of her marriage, suffers disappointment in her younger lover and retreats into a serene isolation.
Adapted from a 1906 play by Hjalmar Söderberg, Gertrud is the story of a woman’s search for a romantic ideal of total and perfect love. A once famous singer now in her early 40s and retired in Stockholm, Gertrud makes the decision to leave Gustav, her lawyer husband for her lover Erland, a young composer. Discovering the next day that Erland has betrayed her, and that he cannot make a total commitment to her, Gertrud rejects both husband and lover, choosing a life of solitude and study over the compromise of love that is merely half-measure.
‘Gertrud is a film I made with my heart’, said Dreyer and its rigorously pared-down structure and stylised slowness, intricate camera movements and lighting effects show superbly how the art of his films were his truly great passion.