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Exhibition: Dreyer and the female roles

In December 2023, our cultural centre in China opened a new exhibition highlighting the female roles in movies of the world-famous Danish film director Carl Th. Dreyer (1889-1968). The exhibition circulates around five of his masterpieces: “Master of the House (1925), The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), Day of Wrath (1943), The Word (1955), and Gertrud (1964).


Through photos, film screenings and stories, the Chinese audience got an insight into Dreyer’s universe – and not least his portrayal of women on the big screen.


In international film history, Carl Th. Dreyer ranks as one of the greatest Danish directors of all time. Born out of wedlock, he was adopted from an orphanage and spent years searching for his mother, sadly without success, as she died in poverty when he was two years old. Many have interpreted Dreyer’s obsession with tragic stories about women as an autobiographical feature of his films.


In fact, women play a crucial role in his work. Dreyer was one of the first filmmakers to give the female role realism and psychological depth. Just as his female characters are often strong and independent.


Not seldomly, the female characters are pursued and treated unjustly by the largely male societies or individuals like in “The Passion of Joan of d’Arc“ (1928), arguably his most famous work, where a court manipulates a young woman into denouncing her beliefs and burn her at the stake. Or in “Day of Wrath” (1943) where the medieval witch-hunts forces a young woman to marry an older priest, only to fall in love with his son.


Chinese audiences will have the opportunity to experience Dreyers masterpieces – both at the Danish Cultural Centre and at Beijing Normal University and China Film Archives, where all his films will be screened during December 2023 and January 2024.