Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Day of Wrath (1943)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Day of Wrath (1943, Denmark) (aka Vredens Dag)

In director Carl Dreyer's somber and dark drama about a religious witch hunt in 17th century Denmark (in the year 1623) when women were persecuted - a parallel to the political situation in Nazi-occupied Denmark in 1943 when Jews were targeted, deported or captured, and executed:

  • the main plot: young and sexy Anne Pedersdotter (Lisbeth Movin) was forced into marriage to much-older, widower-pastor Master Absalon Pedersson (Thorkild Roose); (Anne's own mother was threatened with burning at the stake as a witch, and Anne suspected that she was a witch herself, although her mother was spared by the Master's intervention: "You knew she was a witch, but kept quiet...You kept quiet for Anne's sake")
Questioning of Suspected Old Witch Marte - Anne Listening
  • the ordeal of elderly wife Herlofs Marte (Anna Svierkier), an herb woman, who was accused of being a witch by her husband, including Marte's capture, interrogation in a torture chamber, confession, and eventual execution by burning at the stake; Anne tried to save Marte, at her own peril; Marte threatened to reveal that the hypocritical Absalon had earlier saved Anne's mother, who was also a witch ("She could call the living and the dead"), because he had an interest in the young Anne
  • the harsh scene of Marte's questioning: "How did you enter the devil's service?...Where did you first meet the devil?...Was it beneath the gallows?...You had to trample on the Cross?...He forbade you to attend Communion?...You had to renounce God and Christ?...You signed an eternal contract with the devil?" - she admitted to everything, under duress
  • the scene in the rectory hallway near where the interrogation of accused-witch Marte was taking place, and the complex, dual-purpose camera movement when Anne was walking forward among the pillars - the camera both panned away from her and tracked after her (reflecting her ambivalent feelings of both fear and curiosity)
  • before her death, Marte pleaded not to be burned; she also cursed out at Master Absalon and threatened to denounce Anne as a witch, as she was hoisted above the fire: "I'll denounce Anne, do you hear? I'll get even with you. You will regret this. You yourself are going to the Devil. You hypocrite, you liar! You liar! You liar!"
  • Anne was conducting an incestuous affair with the pastor's handsome young son Martin (Preben Lerdorff Rye); she told Martin that she never loved her Reverend/Master husband Absalon: ("...I have never loved him. And he has never loved me...I often think if he was dead...I only said 'if'"), and she dreamed of the two of them living together and having a child: "We'll live by the sea in a little house. I'll awaken with my head on your shoulder, and wake you with a kiss. We'll lie like that for a long time. Then, a little Martin will cry from his cradle. I'll take him up. And as I found life on your breast, he shall find life at my breast. I shall pass to him all the tenderness you gave me. I'll sing to him about you and me. Isn't it lovely to think about?"
  • the Reverend/Master admitted he took Anne without her permission, stole her youth and married her: "I have done you a great wrong. I never asked if you wanted to be mine. I just took you. I took your best years. A wrong that can never be put right"; boldly, she all but confessed her adultery to him: "I have burned for somebody I could love. I have dreamt of a child to hold in my arms. You haven't even given me that. Have I ever wished you dead? I have wished it hundreds of times. I have wished you dead when you were with me and when you were away from me. But never as intensely as since Martin and I...Yes, Martin and I. Now you know. That's why at this very moment, I wish you dead. Dead!"; as he dramatically rose up and called out for Martin, he collapsed and died of heart failure
  • during the funeral, the pastor's strict, mean and domineering mother Merete (Sigrid Neiiendam), who stood by the casket, denounced Anne as willing her son's death: "My son lies murdered. And his murderer is sitting there. Life for life. Blood for blood"; she also accused Anne of being a witch herself, with power over Martin: "You yourself are in her power. She lured you with the help of the evil one. She murdered her husband with the help of the evil one. I denounce her as a witch. Let her deny it, if she dare"; Martin chose to stand by his grandmother's claims and not defend Anne
  • in the final scene, the resigned Anne did not deny the charges; sitting next to her husband's open coffin, she confessed her trust in the devil to ensnare Martin and to murder her husband: "Absalon. I have..I give witness, I give witness. I - So you got your revenge after all. Yes, I murdered you with the help of the evil one. And I have lured your son into my power with the help of the evil one. Now you know. Now you know. I'm seeing you through tears, but nobody is coming to wipe them away"
  • the film's prologue (with the shadowy imprint of a cross above a hymnal, and scrolling down the page of ornate calligraphy): "Day of Wrath. O Day of Mourning. See fulfill'd the Prophet's Warning. Heav'n and Earth in ashes burning. Oh, what fear man's bosom rendeth, when from Heav'n the Judge descendeth, on whose sentence all dependeth. Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth, through earth's sepulchres it ringeth, all before the throne it bringeth. Death is struck and nature quaking, all creation is awaking, to its Judge an answer making. Lo! the book exactly worded, wherein all hath been recorded, thence shall judgement be awarded. While the wicked are confounded, doom'd to flames of woe unbounded, call me with thy Saints surrounded. Low, I kneel, with heart submission see, like ashes, my contrition, help me in my last condition.... (a boys' choir sang the epilogue) Day of Wrath. O, Day of Mourning. From the Dust of Earth Returning, Man for Judgement Must Prepare Him. Lord All Pitying, Jesu Blest. Grant Them Thine Eternal Rest!"

Marte's Burning at Stake

Married Anne in Incestuous Affair with Her Husband's Younger Son Martin

Anne's Husband - Reverend/Master Before Deadly Heart Attack

Anne Condemned as a Witch by Martin's Grandmother
(Supported by Martin)

Anne's Confession of Wrong-doing With Ties to the Devil ("The Evil One")


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