Silent Saturday: The Parson's Widow

1920 comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: After a parson passes away, an ambitious young buck gets the job. But it's on one condition--he has to marry the widow of his predecessor. The problem is that he's already engaged to a woman he actually loves. Oh, snap!

Two Carl Theodor Dreyer silent flicks this year, and both are comedies. This one is a lot more fun than most people would think it would be, but that's because most people don't realize how funny movies from Scandinavia can be.  The humor is also a little more modern than one might expect.

Take an early scene in which we're thrust into the cutthroat world of competitive preaching. Our protagonist is in a three-minister contest against John Lennon and a visibly-ill John Candy. And our hero, instead of Dreyer just making him an impossibly pristine and lovable figure, almost aims for buoyant anti-hero as he wishes the devil on one and attempts to sabotage the other. It's a funny scene, but it also sets up the character well, gives him some shading.

The main character is played by Elnar Rod, and he's got the perfect shape to wind up in a situation like this. He just looks green and has this desperate posture that helps the character work. He also had a bitchin' hat. The titular widow is played by Hildur Carlberg, and all I can really say about her physical appearance is that she looks exactly like how you'd imagine a woman named Hildur to look. She's also perfectly cast, just for her presence. She's a withered but imposing figure, but poisoned herring and Schnapps goggles apparently make her irresistible enough. She gets one stunning moment during an extended good-bye sequence that I thought was very touching. Carlberg only had three credited performances, and this was her last one. The sweetheart (Greta Almroth) is just kind of on the screen, not quite having that silent-movie feminine charm that I usually fall in love with.

Dreyer's direction brings a few magic tricks to help with the storytelling--unfocused camera fuzz, a cool use of split screen, and that move where the screen gradually darkens to focus on one character. I'm sure that last one has a name. And again, the movie is funny. There's a nifty scene with a demon costume, a funny scene featuring rings, and a weird wedding ceremony that made me realize I needed a better hat and more swords at my wedding.

Also--this is likely the first time a "snot rocket" ever made it into a movie. That piece of information is likely to get you the win at your next bar trivia night, so you're welcome.

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