A famous painter named Claude Zoret falls in love with one of his models, Michael, and for a time the two live happily as partners. Zoret is considerably older than Michael, and as they age, Michael begins to drift from him, although Zoret is completely blind to this. When a bankrupt countess comes to Zoret to have a portrait made — with the real intent of seducing him and swindling his money — she finds Michael to be more receptive to her advances. At her lead, the two quickly become a couple and she immediately begins using Michael to steal from Zoret. When Zoret discovers what has been going on, he is crushed and his work suffers terribly.
Michael sells the painting of himself that Zoret made and gave to him as a gift, and steals and sells the sketches Zoret made of their time in Algiers, where they first fell in love. Zoret begins work on his masterpiece: a large-scale painting of a man lying on a beach, using Algiers as a background, depicting “a man who has lost everything”, as one character put it on first sight of the work.
After completing the painting, Zoret falls ill. Charles Switt sits beside Zoret on his deathbed. Switt had always loved Zoret, and has stayed with him throughout, never criticizing Michael for fear of hurting his unrequited love. Switt sends a message to Michael, telling him that Zoret is dying and to come at once, but the Countess prevents him from getting it. Zoret’s last words, which also serve as the prologue to the film, are “Now I can die in peace, for I have seen true love.
Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
Produced by Erich Pommer
Thea von Harbou
Carl Theodor Dreyer
Based on Mikaël
by Herman Bang
Distributed by Decla-Bioscop-Verleih GmbH, Berlin
September 26, 1924 (Berlin)
86 min. (2004 alternate)