“In summer 1947, Dreyer wrote to the head of Dansk Kulturfilm, Ib Koch-Olsen, to suggest a short film about the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1848). Dreyer’s rationale was to film Thorvaldsen’s most popular and most ‘accessible’ works, so that the man in the street would be better able to appreciate what was special and unique about Thorvaldsen’s art. Incidentally, this motivation corresponds to André Bazin’s argument for the importance of the art film: ‘to bring the work of art within the range of everyday seeing so that a man needs no more than a pair of eyes for the task’. The arguments raised against Dreyer’s proposal amongst the committee that evaluated the project, and, later, in the popular press once the film was made, are also echoed in Bazin’s discussion: that film as a medium ‘does violence to’ the plastic arts, and that the ‘artificial and mechanical dramatization’ that film can impose on a work of art might ‘give us an anecdote’ and not a painting or sculpture. On the other hand, the strange fusion of the two art forms can provide the work of art ‘with a new form’ of existence, making an ‘aesthetic symbiosis of screen and painting’. Ultimately, Bazin makes the point that the aesthetic success of art films is dependent on how well informed and sensitive the filmmaker is.”

Claire Thomson1