Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Gertrud (1964)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Gertrud (1964, Denmark)

In Carl Dreyer's deliberately-paced, meditative romantic drama, the director's final completed feature film (noted for very lengthy takes and lots of dialogue) - a profound masterpiece about the search for ideal love without compromise by a woman who had four suitors during her lifetime:

  • the dilemma and distress facing ex-opera singer Gertrud Kanning (Nina Pens Rode) of her loneliness and emptiness in a crumbling and loveless marriage; in their claustrophobic apartment in Copenhagen, she told her career-minded husband - a middle-aged lawyer and politician Gustav Kanning (Bendt Rothe), that she was leaving him (and wished to separate and file for a divorce), because of their loss of love for each other, and that she had found love with another unnamed man; she expressed her main complaint about his emphasis on work, and her need to place love first and foremost: ("The man I'm with must be completely mine. I must come before everything. I don't want to be an occasional plaything"); Gustav replied: "Yes, but sweet Gertrud, love alone is not enough in a man's life. That would be ridiculous for a man"; she reminded him: "See for yourself how little I mean to you and how insignificant the void becomes when I leave now"
  • the scene of a romantic rendezvous in a park on a bench near a lake (where there was a statue of Aphrodite), filmed with a moving camera, as Gertrud approached with anticipation to speak to her lover Erland Jansson (Baard Owe), a promising young composer; she told him of her plan to leave her husband, before they departed for his place to make love for the first time; she undressed (seen in shadow) as he played a piano piece
  • the sequence of Gertrud's warning by her ex-lover, poet Gabriel Lidman (Ebbe Rode) - who had attended a courtesan's party the night before, and overheard philandering Erland Jansson bragging that Gertrud was his "latest conquest": ("In this mixed company, in this atmosphere of drinking, playing and whoring around, he spoke aloud of his latest conquest. And he named her, her beloved name")
  • the second sequence in the park between Erland Jansson and Gertrud when she told him of her complete love, but he confessed that they could not run away together because he had already impregnated another woman - she was stunned
  • the long sequence between Gertrud and ex-lover Gabriel - when he pleaded with her in her drawing room to come back to him: ("You taught me love is everything. We shouldn't be alone. I have been alone much too much. We shouldn't be just one of many. We need to be one of two") - but she declined his offer when she became realistic about their future together: "Nothing's ever like one thinks"
  • in the poignant conclusion, 30 years into the future, the uncompromising white-haired Gertrud (exiled in Paris and single), who believed in absolute and idealistic love, had lived out her life mostly in solitude and seclusion in the country: ("Yes, I live here like a hermit, forgotten, erased. I like it that way. I need solitude - solitude and freedom"); she reflected on her life with her old, polite and gallant psychologist friend Axel Nygren (Axel Strøbye); he asked for all his old letters back and burned them in the fireplace; she read outloud a poem she had written when she was 16: "'Just look at me. Am I beautiful? No, but I have loved. Just look at me. Am I young? No, but I have loved. Just look at me. Do I live? No, but I have loved.' Sixteen-year-old Gertrud - my gospel according to love"; Axel reminded her of what she had said: "There's nothing else in life but love. Nothing. Nothing else. Do you still stand by those words? Do you regret them?" - she replied: "No, I don't regret them. I stand by what I said. There's nothing else in life, but youth and love, unending tenderness and quiet happiness, Axel"
  • in the final moments of the film, she admitted she had already bought her "resting place" gravesite under a mulberry tree; she described the two words that she had ordered for her headstone: ("...just two words, amor omnia...Love is all"); as they rose, she added: "The gardener has been told that only grass shall grow on my grave and in springtime I shall have anemones. You'll come by one day, pick an anemone and think of me. Take it as a word of love that was thought, but never spoken. Now you'd better go, otherwise we'll end up by running off to Paris. One day your visit will be only a memory as all the other memories I cherish. Sometimes I bring forth the memories and lose myself in them. I feel as if I am gazing at a fire about to be extinguished. Thank you, Axel. Thanks for visiting. Thank you for your book"; they shook hands as he replied: "Goodbye, Gertrud" - twice, they waved to each other from a distance; once she closed her door, the camera remained focused on the outside of her door before a fade to black
Thirty Years Into the Future -
A Bittersweet Reunion With Old Friend Axel

Gertrud Divorcing Her Husband Gustav

Romantic Rendezvous in Park Between Gertrud and Erland

Undressing in Shadows at Erland's Place

Deserted by Erland

Gertrud with Ex-Lover Gabriel


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