Though, sadly, not all of this charming fable survives, the Danish Film Institute’s restoration, making clever use of stills and titles to fill gaps in the narrative, lets us enjoy Dreyer’s expertise in composition, lighting and visual textures. It begins as light-hearted fairy-tale, with the Princess of Illyria endlessly rejecting suitors, but becomes more naturalistic – and still lovelier to look at – when the Prince of Denmark, posing as a beggar, educates her in the ways of rural living.
“The film remains remarkable for the new, rich textures of George Schnéevoigt’s photography. Never less than elegant in the Court sequences, the film really comes into its own in the forest scenes, where the drifting smoke and shafts of sunlight driving through the trees give an air of grey, enchanted luminosity. The influence of German expressionism is already evident, and in Mikaël it is carried even further as Dreyer begins his descent into the human soul.” (Tom Milne)
Showing as part of a season of Carl Dreyer’s greatest films throughout April.