Painting with light
Bendtsen tells how, in collaboration with Dreyer, he was permitted to expand, to detach himself from filmic conventions and paint with light:
‘When I face a person, whether he or she is an actor or an extra appearing in a film, I do not know anything about the person. All I need to know is how the person is part of a story and then, by means of the lighting, try to bring out what I experience.’
The film is most engaging in the passages where Bendtsen does a voice-over on film quotes and explains in detail, how, even in situations of complicated camera motions, he puts separate lighting on each actor to stress their state of mind.
‘Dreyer created an atmosphere around him that made you do your best’, states Bendtsen, who 46 years later remembers that nothing whatsoever went wrong when filming ‘The Word’, which most likely is due to the fact that throughout life Bendtsen has been passionately preoccupied with both photographic technicalities as well as the narrative.
Whether he talks about discrete lighting effects which create modulations on the white walls of the mortuary chamber or about finding the perfect picture to back up the story, his eyes sparkle.
Henning Bendtsen shot Dreyer’s last two films – the second was ‘Gertrud’ (1964), and later took part in realizing two of Lars Von Trier’s films ‘Epidemic’ (1987) and ‘Europa’ (1991).
Helga Theilgaard’s film is a sympathetic piece of film history which simultaneously works as a fine appendix to Torben Skjødt Jensen’s great Dreyer film, ‘My Métier’ from 1995, in which a younger and more breathless Bendtsen primarily contributes with anecdotal material.