DFI acquires rights to key Dreyer films

DREYER. The rights to Day of Wrath, The Word and Gertrud now reside with the Danish Film Institute, which has taken over the Palladium film company’s catalogue of about 120 titles, including the three key works by Carl Theodor Dreyer.

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Still: The Word (Carl Th. Dreyer, DK, 1955).

Translation of the press release from DFI.DK (in Danish only):

Three major works by Carl Theodor Dreyer, the features Day of Wrath (1943), The Word (1955) and Gertrud (1964), have now found a home at the Danish Film Institute (DFI), making them a permanent and accessible part of Denmark’s cultural heritage. 

This happens after the DFI, with support from the A.P. Møller Foundation and the Augustinus Foundation, has acquired the rights to the catalogue of the Palladium film company, which, apart from the Dreyer films, also includes films by the popular Danish 1920s comedy duo Fy & Bi and a number of the mildly pornographic so-called Bedside films from the 1970s.

Part of the national cultural heritage

As Henrik Bo Nielsen, the recently departed director of the DFI, sees it, there is a singular satisfaction in making sure that such an important part of the nation’s cultural heritage remains in Danish hands:

"The Palladium company, which is turning 100 next year, hasn’t produced films since the mid-seventies, but has continued as an independent company. Managing director Ulla Hansen, who is now departing, has considered it not just a job but a historical obligation to maintain the legacy of the formerly family-owned company, specifically as regards the rights to the catalogue of 120 – very different – film titles. This includes Fy & Bi films, Dreyer’s later sound films, a few documentaries and a whole lot of what today we would call mainstream films.

"While we already have prints of many of the films in our archive, we didn’t have the rights to screen the films before, beyond the narrow public distribution that takes place via the Cinematheque. Showing Dreyer’s films internationally and to a broader Danish public has been restricted by privately held copyrights.

"I think it would be a crying shame if this opportunity were allowed to pass to foreign interests, for instance in France or the United States. As things stand today, Danish legislation dictating that essential Danish cultural heritage must remain in Danish hands doesn’t extend to films. But Dreyer should live here!"

Relevant to audiences today

The DFI already disseminates the legacy of Dreyer. This takes place in part via the physical Dreyer Archive, which holds original manuscripts, work papers, photos, research materials, newspaper clippings, his book collection and more than 4,000 letters, and in part via the comprehensive website carthdreyer.dk, which gives Danish and international researchers, and all other interested parties, an opportunity to dive into Dreyer’s life and work.

"I think we have made a big effort to disseminate Dreyer’s life and work to professionals in the field, while getting his works out to a wider public has been more difficult. That will be easier now. Dreyer should not be a closed party," Nielsen says.

With the acquisition, the DFI can now make Dreyer’s films available to all citizens via the existing streaming services, and has moreover committed to disseminating the films and making Dreyer relevant to audiences today. 

"For younger generations, who are big consumers and creators of moving pictures, Dreyer is a goldmine. Witness his close-ups, light and shadow, set designs. Plus, there is a lot to learn from his stories. Watching Day of Wrath with the proper mediation I think makes it possible to draw parallels to the kind of fundamentalist thinking that marks large parts of the world today,” Nielsen says.

"Or take Vampyr, a psychedelic masterwork of the uncanny. We can’t make Dreyer hip and contemporary or madly popular, nor should we even try. However, the fact that Dreyer pops up in conversation so often abroad and so rarely here at home I think is because we have kind of forgotten how to make use of him. We are looking forward to doing a lot more about that now."

"It is with great gratitude to departing Palladium director Ulla Hansen and the A.P. Møller and Augustinus Foundations that we now make this significant and diverse part of the Danish cultural heritage available to everyone," Nielsen says.

Henrik Bo Nielsen left as director of the Danish Film Institute on 1 September to assume directorship of the Danish museum group ROMU.

Det Danske Filminstitut CARL TH. DREYER - THE MAN AND HIS WORK

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