What’s in the collection? Where do the materials come from? How are they organised and registered? Read about the Carl Th. Dreyer Collection here.
The Carl Th. Dreyer Collection first and foremost contains extensive donations from Dreyer’s estate made to the Danish Film Museum (now the Danish Film Institute / Archive & Cinematheque) in autumn 1975. This unique collection of the director’s papers includes original scripts and research materials, not only for his films but also for many unrealised film projects, including Jesus of Nazareth and Mary Stuart. In addition are approx. 4,000 personal letters, private photographs, stills from his films, clippings, film awards, accounts and correspondence from Dagmar Teatret, along with parts of his private book collection. On top of this come the DFI Library’s clipping materials and a large collection of literature about Dreyer in the form of books and articles.
This extensive collection of archive materials is mainly stored at the DFI's Carl Theodor Dreyer Archive in Gothersgade, Copenhagen.
The collection is catalogued in a database with comprehensive keyword indexing. All relevant material has been digitised, e.g. artifacts, photos and manuscripts.
The DFI / Film Archive holds all Dreyer's films.
The material in the Carl Theodor Dreyer collection originates from one of the following five donations:
In autumn 1975, the Danish Film Museum received a large collection of Dreyer's papers from his estate (mainly correspondence and research materials), chiefly covering his last three films, "Day of Wrath", "The Word" and "Gertrud", and two of his big film projects, "Medea" and "Mary Stuart". The donation moreover included original manuscripts for practically all of Dreyer's films and projects, as well as a large collection of "Life in the City Court", a column Dreyer wrote five or six times weekly from 1936 to 1939 for the newspaper B.T.
DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation)
A few years earlier, the Film Museum had received a collection of materials from the Danish Broadcasting Corporation DR relating to Dreyer's expansive "Jesus of Nazareth" film project. Dreyer's research for the project filled seven boxes that were stored in his widow Ebba Dreyer's basement, plus three boxes that were discovered in a warehouse in Jerusalem – apparently, materials that Dreyer shipped to Israel in 1955, when he was convinced that he would be realising his film. DR producer Lars Graff Nielsen based his documentary, "A Life's Work – Carl Th. Dreyer's Jesus Film" on this material. The documentary was broadcast on 27 March 1970, and the Film Museum subsequently received the ten boxes by agreement with Mrs Dreyer.
On 1 September 1990, the Film Museum received a small collection, mainly of personal letters, photographs, etc., from the estate of Dreyer's daughter Gunni Dreyer. The materials arrived in an orange steamer trunk painted with the initials: C T D.
In 1991, DFI's collection was augmented by 158 books from Dreyer's private library related to the "Jesus af Nazaret" and "Medea" projects thanks to a grant from the Augustinus Foundation. "Carl Th. Dreyers Bibliotek", the catalogue from Nansensgade Antikvariat, a rare-book dealer, listed 397 lots, all originating from Dreyer's apartment in Copenhagen. After the death of Mrs Dreyer, the apartment was occupied by their daughter, Gunni Dreyer, who passed away in August 1990.
Danish Film Institute (DFI)
Finally, the Dreyer Collection includes DFI's own collection of books, magazine articles, clippings, stills and posters, etc., relating to Dreyer and his work.
The Organisation of the Collection
I: Individual films and film projects
A: Feature films
B: Feature film projects
C: Short films
D: Short film projects
A: Misc. correspondence
B: Correspondence with Blevins Davis (producer of Jesus of Nazareth)
C: Correspondence with Leiser & Morris (Dreyer’s American agent)
D: Misc. correspondence with Dreyer’s attorney in Skindergade, Copenhagen
E: Birthday letters and telegrams
III: Dagmar Teatret
IV: Private library
V: Clipping collection
(including approx. 1,000 original clippings of Dreyer’s newspaper column, "Livet i byretten," B.T., 1936-39)
VI: Misc. materials
(objects, film awards, etc.)
VII: Private archive
(60-plus boxes, mainly clippings)
Cataloguing the Collection
In 1976-77, a large part of the collection was recorded in a paper register: Dreyer’s papers for individual films and film projects (I) (9 ring binders) and his correspondence (II) (3 ring binders). Moreover, Danmarks Radio (DR) made a paper register (2 ring binders) in connection with the production of the TV programme Et livsværk – Carl Th. Dreyers Jesusfilm (1970). DR donated this catalogue and collection to the Danish Film Institute in 1970.
Thanks to a generous donation from the Velux Foundation in 2008, the Danish Film Institute / Archive & Cinematheque has been able to build the website carlthdreyer.dk and begin the massive task of cataloguing all the material in the collection in a database. The Carl Th. Dreyer Collection is now available via a database at the website (with the exception of the register for Jesus of Nazareth). The work of cataloguing previously unregistered parts of the collection will continue until the entire collection has been registered. An announcement will be posted on the website when the work has been completed.
Please address comments and questions regarding the collection and the carlthdreyer.dk website to firstname.lastname@example.org
By Birgit Granhøj