Entertainment Weekly - 12/24/2004
"[The] elegiac MICHAEL exquisitely records a love triangle..."
Film Comment - 01/01/2005
"[T]his 1924 German production provides much fretted nuance for appetites who crave their frisson attenuated."
Description by OLDIES.com:
Danish film master Carl Theodor Dreyer's Michael is a mature and visually elegant period romance decades ahead of its time. Available for the first time on DVD, Michael takes its place alongside Dreyer's better known masterpieces as an unusually sensitive and decorous work of art and is one of the earliest and most compassionate overtly gay-themed films in movie history. Collaborating with famed German cinematographers Karl Freund (Metropolis, The Last Laugh) and Rudolph Mate (Passion of Joan of Arc, DOA) Michael offers the first fully realized example of Dreyer's emotionally precise, visually extravagant style.
Based upon Herman Bang's 1902 novel, Dreyer's Michael refashions the classical Greek myth of Jupiter and Ganymede into a love triangle between an aging artist, Zoret (director Benjamin Christensen), his protege Michael (Walter Slezak, later to play the Nazi villain in Hitchcock's Lifeboat) and Princess Zamikoff (Nora Gregor, Rules of the Game), an aristocratic femme fatale as entranced by Michael's youthful beauty as Zoret is. As Michael plunges from the dizzying heights of new love to the depths of theft and betrayal, Zoret experiences a spiritual rebirth from out of the ashes of rejection and despair.
A film of exquisite artistry, Michael is both elaborately theatrical and remarkably restrained. Dreyer elicits vivid and passionate performances from his adroit cast, including the screen's only acting appearance by cinematographer Freund. Co-written by Fritz Lang's wife and collaborator Thea Von Harbou (M, Metropolis), this intimate and compelling film possesses a bold level of emotional detail and depicts the twilight of a male-male romance with unusual daring and subtlety.
A 1924 adaptation of Herman Bang's decadent novel from Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer, MICHAEL is a recreation of the mythological love triangle between Jupiter, his wife Juno, and Ganymede. Sensitive and elegant, it is a technically adept and sumptuous portrait of an aging artist, Zoret (director Benjamin Christensen), and his passionate love for his young muse, Michael (Walter Slezak, LIFEBOAT). When Princess Zamika (Nora Gregor, RULES OF THE GAME), a sensuous femme fatale, also falls under the spell of his youthful beauty, Michael is in turn enchanted and begins to drift away from the older man; Zoret is left to watch helplessly, and eventually succumbs to despair and loneliness. With performances both melodramatic and subtly restrained, the depth of the characters' love and melancholy are brilliantly communicated. The elaborate fin de siecle sets are stunningly photographed by cinematographer Karl Freund (METROPOLIS, THE LAST LAUGH), who also appears here in the sole onscreen performance of his career.