Like Mauritz Stiller’s Vingarne, Dreyer’s film is drawn from Herman Bang’s 1902 novel Mikaël. While Stiller’s approach is significant for its film-within-a-film reflexivity—there, an adaption of Bang’s book is accompanied by a framing story about the making of the adaptation—Dreyer takes a different tack. His variation on the love triangle between a famous artist, the protégé he pines for, and a penniless aristocrat is comparatively muted in its homoeroticism, yet no less powerful as a result. Dreyer counted Michael as a favorite of his early films. The picture speaks through its sumptuous decor, its subtle performances, and, perhaps most crucially, its compositions, expertly lensed by the influential cinematographer Karl Freund. Indeed, Dreyer’s close-ups in Michael, which convey emotion so delicately as to make words superfluous, anticipate those in The Passion of Joan of Arc. Print courtesy of the Murnau Foundation.
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