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A young man is elected by a small village to be its parson. As part of his duties, he is required to marry the widow of the parson before him. This poses two problems--first, the widow is old enough to be his grandmother, and second, he is already engaged to another woman. Written by
Hildur Carlberg, the skilled septuagenarian actress who plays Dame Margarete, died in August, 1920, two months before this film opened-- a heartbreaking irony, in part because the plot involves her youthful husband marrying her only to await her death.
The film has marvelous comic moments, capitalizing on the fact that medieval European peasants suffered from backbreaking work, a total absence of education, and a desperate need for dentists. The scene when a couple of clerics (the losers) compete for the job of parson by delivering sermons in which they inadvertently skewer their own backwardness is priceless, especially as they are speaking to a congregation of bedraggled and toothless locals who were mostly in church to nap. And the scene where an old lady hocks something out of her nose before returning to her needlepoint-- fabulous.
Dreyer, a committed naturalist who didn't even approve of make-up on his performers, shot this film on location at Maihaugen, Norway, in an open-air museum of 200 medieval buildings. Even the interiors are authentic. Every frame shows it. Watch particularly for a folk wall hanging in Dame Margarete's home. This is another silent gem from the director of The Passion of Joan of Arc.
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