Judith Rosenberg on Piano

(Mikaël). “Now I can die in peace, for I have seen true love,” begins and ends Dreyer's majestic treatment of doomed love and obsession. A rare portrait of the hidden relationship between two men, Michael is imbued with the psychological romanticism of Russian literature. “I desire to paint you; will you pose for me?” queries an older artist to the fey blonde youth Michael, beginning a relationship that brings success to them both; as time goes on, however, Michael moves further away from the older man. “Nobody knows how lonely I am; nobody has the right to make me even lonelier,” responds the old master. It is with Michael that Dreyer fully embraces the unhurried rhythms and radiant close-ups that would mark his future career, and turns human longing into an almost physical force. Photographed with Expressionist flourishes by two legends of cinematography, Karl Freud (Metropolis) and Rudolph Mate, and starring acclaimed director Benjamin Christensen as “the master,” Michael is essential Dreyer, and essential cinema.

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