Two People is set in contemporary Stockholm. From a montage of newspaper headlines and close-ups of chemical instruments we learn that a young researcher, Arne Lundell, has been accused of plagiarising an older rival, Professor Sander. The rest of the film takes place in Lundell’s apartment; he and his wife, Marianne, are the only characters. Lundell is informed that Sander has committed suicide, but it soon turns out that he was actually murdered, and a chain of circumstantial evidence points to Arne. By accident Arne finds a letter revealing that Marianne was Sander’s mistress before she met Arne. Enraged with jealousy, he threatens to throw her out, but he changes his mind. Marianne now confesses that she shot Sander. Sander had looked her up, on the pretext of helping her husband, but he abused her confidence and stole Lundell’s research findings. A flashback shows Sander as a looming shadow, demanding that Marianne come back to him. That’s why she killed him. Arne wants her to flee, but she won’t live without his love and takes poison. Arne chooses to go to his death with her.
The film is an experiment, an attempt to make a pure chamber play: apart from the flashback and the initial montage, all the action is set in one apartment and we only see the two main characters. The outside world exists only in the form of newspaper headlines, telephone calls, radio broadcasts and police sirens. In his camera placements, Dreyer pays no heed to eyelines and plot axes, and consequently some of the film’s cuts appear to break the classical conventions of dialogue editing. As in Day of Wrath, Dreyer has the film’s emotional climax unfurl in a single unbroken shot, a fluid close-up, with the camera panning back and forth between the two characters.
Dreyer did not get the actors he wanted: Arne was supposed to have been delicate and naïve, Marianne hot-blooded and erotically experienced. Instead, he had forced upon him two actors with the exact opposite qualities. Moreover, Dreyer had actually decided to cut out the stagy flashback scene with the looming shadow and replace it with dialogue to make the film adhere completely to the unity of time and place, but the producer put the scene back in. The highly melodramatic score was likewise added without Dreyer’s consent. Dreyer completely renounced the film. Two People was never commercially released outside of Sweden and is among the director’s least known films.