Leaves from Satan’s Book is divided into four episodes set in four different historical eras. In each episode we follow Satan, who has been cursed by God and is doomed to tempt man. He will be redeemed only if he is resisted. In episode 1, Satan in the guise of a Pharisee tempts Judas to betray Jesus. In episode 2, set in 16th-century Spain, Satan is a grand inquisitor who compels a monk, Don Fernandez, to commit a heinous rape. Episode 3 takes place during the French Revolution: Satan is now a Jacobin leader who convinces young Joseph to betray his noble master and thwart a plan that could have saved Queen Marie Antoinette from death at the guillotine. In episode 4, Satan is a former monk who leads a gang of Red Guards during the Finnish civil war in 1918. He threatens to kill the family of a telegraph operator, Siri, unless she helps lure a group of government soldiers into an ambush. She resists, however, committing suicide rather than becoming a traitor.
In his second feature, Dreyer got the chance to make a film on a really big scale, even if Nordisk gave him nowhere near the kind of budget he was asking for. Though the screenplay lacks balance – weighed down by the complicated French episode – this grandly conceived film remains impressive, with its searching close-ups, severely unembellished decorations, tight editing and delicately centred compositions. Dreyer’s depiction of Christ in this film is moreover interesting in light of Dreyer’s later, unrealised Jesus film project, though the director personally dismissed this early work as "a dreadful collection of oil prints."
Reviewers of the day, as well as later writers, compared the film to D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916, Danish premiere 1918), which similarly depicts evil’s hold on man in four historical episodes. Even so, Edgard Høyer’s original screenplay for Dreyer’s film dates to 1913. Most likely, both films were inspired by Satanas (dir. Luigi Maggi), an Italian film from 1912.