This is the third Dreyer movie I've seen, and each film has had the same effect. For the first 10 minutes or so, I want to run away. There is a stillness about this film (as with all those I've seen) which is eerie; it's more than the lack of action, it's the feeling that the story is not going to develop, and the sense that not much will change. Then, for some inexplicable reason, I am hooked, and the same word comes to settle - haunting. The images stay in me (in me, not with me, if you udnerstand), and I know that in a few months I'll buy it because I will want to see it again. Not every day, but at intervals.
The story is one of a woman who chooses to live her life according to love. The men who want her are actually quite decent men; selfish, as most of we men are, but decent with that. Even the cad of the film has a decency about him, obscured by his youth, as is recognised by her. But it's not whether Gertrud is a tragic figure, ending alone, or whether she is a heroine, who has lived her life according to her own lights, which haunts me. It's the simplicity of the sets in the long scenes - mirrors, large-panelled doors, peaceful parks. It's the way the characters talk away from each other - they rarely look at one another when they talk, so that when they do you sit up and notice what they're saying. It's the sharp differentiation of characters (do all Dreyer's heroines have such strong, handsome features?), physically and psychologically; the black and white film reinforces that differentiation. It's the stillness - an eerie calm which becomes so intense that it seeps into you while you're watching.
So how to summarise the film? The same way that I would summarise the other films of his I've seen (Ordet, and Day of Wrath). Haunting. Just that. No more.