In four episodes, we witness how Satan must walk the Earth and tempt men to do evil: Judas betrays Jesus, the Inquisition in 16th-century Spain, an episode in the French Revolution and a family tragedy during the Finnish civil war in 1918. Carl Theodor Dreyer's lavish period piece is presented here in its most complete version, even with an alternative happy ending. For this DVD a HD transfer was done from a restored duplication negative.
About the film
In four episodes, we witness how Satan (Nissen), accursed by God, must walk the Earth and tempt men to do evil; he can only hope to be delivered from his curse if someone resists him, but few do. Episode 1 tells the story of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, enticed by Satan in the guise of a Pharisee. Episode 2 takes place in 16th-century Spain; Satan is a Grand Inquisitor, who manipulates a tormented young monk into committing an ugly rape. Episode 3 takes place during the French Revolution; a young man who has the opportunity to save Marie Antoinette from the guillotine allows her to be executed, because she reminds him of a misdeed he was tempted to commit by Satan, now a Jacobin leader. Episode 4 is set during the Finnish civil war in 1918. Here, Satan is a defrocked monk leading a Bolshevik rabble. He threatens to kill the family of Siri, a telegraph operator, if she does not send a message luring the Whites into an ambush, but she resists, and kills herself rather than turn traitor.
Carl Theodor Dreyer learned the craft of filmmaking at Nordisk, writing titles, adapting novels and plays, and editing most of the company's features from 1915 to 1918. His talent was recognized, and he was given a large budget to make this film, the studio's biggest production of 1919. Dreyer was not satisfied with the available resources, however, and he left the company in anger after completing the film.Yet, even though the script is unbalanced (the complicated French episode sags), this grandly conceived film impresses through its inquisitive close-ups, austere and unembellished sets, tight editing, and carefully centered compositions.
The script was written in 1913 by Danish author Edgard Høyer (the final episode was originally set during the Russo-Japanese War); it was an original work and (despite the claim in many credit lists for this film) owes nothing whatever to Marie Corelli's 1895 bestseller The Sorrows of Satan, filmed by D.W. Griffith in 1926.
Blade af Satans bog / Leaves Out of the Book of Satan - Denmark 1920 - Directed by: Carl Theodor Dreyer - Written by: Edgar Høyer, Carl Theodor Dreyer - Cinematography by: George Schnéevoigt - Cast: Helge Nissen (Satanas), Halvard Hoff (Jesus), Jacob Texière.(Judas), Johannes Meyer (Don Fernandez), Tenna Frederiksen [Kraft] (Marie Antoinette), Carlo Wieth (Paavo), Clara Wieth [Pontoppidan] (Siri), Karina Bell (Naima) - Produced by: Nordisk Films Kompagni, Copenhagen - Première: November 17, 1920 (Norway)
- Blade af Satans bog 1920, 157'
- Piano score by Ronen Thalmay
- Chapter selection
- Alternative happy ending 3'
- Unedited rushes 4'
- Biographie of Carl Theodor Dreyer
Edited by: Danish Film Institute & Cinematheque
DVD Authoring: Eric L. Petersen
DVD Supervision: Thomas Christensen