Leaves from Satan's Book

(Carl Th. Dreyer, DK, 1921)

Leaves from Satan’s Book is divided into four episodes set in four different historical eras. In each episode we follow Satan, who has been cursed by God and is doomed to tempt man. He will be redeemed only if he is resisted. In episode 1, Satan in the guise of a Pharisee tempts Judas to betray Jesus. In episode 2, set in 16th-century Spain, Satan is a grand inquisitor who compels a monk, Don Fernandez, to commit a heinous rape. Episode 3 takes place during the French Revolution: Satan is now a Jacobin leader who convinces young Joseph to betray his noble master and thwart a plan that could have saved Queen Marie Antoinette from death at the guillotine. In episode 4, Satan is a former monk who leads a gang of Red Guards during the Finnish civil war in 1918. He threatens to kill the family of a telegraph operator, Siri, unless she helps lure a group of government soldiers into an ambush. She resists, however, committing suicide rather than becoming a traitor.

In his second feature, Dreyer got the chance to make a film on a really big scale, even if Nordisk gave him nowhere near the kind of budget he was asking for. Though the screenplay lacks balance – weighed down by the complicated French episode – this grandly conceived film remains impressive, with its searching close-ups, severely unembellished decorations, tight editing and delicately centred compositions. Dreyer’s depiction of Christ in this film is moreover interesting in light of Dreyer’s later, unrealised Jesus film project, though the director personally dismissed this early work as "a dreadful collection of oil prints."

Reviewers of the day, as well as later writers, compared the film to D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916, Danish premiere 1918), which similarly depicts evil’s hold on man in four historical episodes. Even so, Edgard Høyer’s original screenplay for Dreyer’s film dates to 1913. Most likely, both films were inspired by Satanas (dir. Luigi Maggi), an Italian film from 1912.


Production company Nordisk Films Kompagni
Distributor  Fotorama
Censorship classication  Allowed for everyone
Release date and place 24.1. 1921 / Palads 
First screened in Norway, Victoria Teater (Oslo), 15.11.1920.

Directed by

Carl Th. Dreyer  Director 


Carl Th. Dreyer  Screenwriter 
Edgard Høyer     Screenwriter

Cinematography by

George Schnéevoigt Director og Photography

Production design

Axel Bruun Art Direction
Jens G. Lind Art Direction


Helge Nissen     Satanas (I-IV) 
Halvard Hoff Jesus (I)
Jacob Texière Judas (I)
Erling Hansson Johannes (I)
Hallander Hellemann Don Gomez (II)
Ebon Strandin Isabella, Don Gomez's daughter (II)
Johannes Meyer Don Fernandez, Isabella's teacher (II)
Nalle Haldén     José, butler (II)  
Hugo Bruun Count Manuel (II)
Tenna Kraft  Queen Marie-Antoinette (III)
Viggo Wiehe  Count de Chambord (III)
Emma Wiehe Countess de Chambord (III)
Jeanne Tramcourt  Lady Geneviève (III)
Elith Pio Servant, later superintendent (III)
Emil Helsengreen People's Commissar (III)
Sven Scholander    Michonnet (III) 
Viggo Lindstrøm  Father Pitou (III)
Vilhelm Petersen  (III) 
Carlo Wieth  Paavo (IV) 
Clara Pontoppidan  Siri, Paavo's wife (IV) 
Carl Hillebrandt  Rautaniemi (IV) 
Christian Nielsen  Corporal Matti (IV) 
Karina Bell  Naima (IV) 

Carl Th. Dreyer



Other titles 
Blade af Satans Bog (DK - original title)
Blätter aus dem Buche Satans DE)
Feuilles du Livre de Satan (FR)
Blad ur Satans bok (SE)


Length/Running time
2900 metres/157 min. (DVD)

Technical data 
35 mm - 1,33:1 - b/w - mute


Dreyers script in Danish


The programme in Danish.