THE PRESIDENT (PRæSIDENTEN)
(director/writer: Carl Theodor Dreyer; screenwriter: from the novel by Karl Emil Franzos; cinematographer: Hans Vaagø; cast: Halvard Hoff(Karl Victor), Richard Christensen (Berger, defense lawyer), Elith Pio (the president Franz’s father), Christian Engelstoft (Journalist), Hallander Helleman (Franz Victor, the president), Victorine Lippert (Olga Raphael-Linden, governess), Jacoba Jessen (Maika), Carl Lauritzen (Priest), Betty Kirkebye (Hermine Lippert); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; Nordisk Film; 1919-silent-Denmark-in Danish with English subtitles)
“A melancholy melodrama.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The first feature film by Carl Theodor Dreyer(“Ordet”/”Gertrud”/”The Parson’s Widow”) is a melancholy melodrama based on a masterful literary work. The silent is based on the novel by Karl Emil Franzos. It offers a heart-felt social commentary about parentage and how the government institutions stigmatize so called “fallen women,” something that affected Dreyer personally (his mother was unwed).
The severe austere melodrama tells of three generations of women who are impregnated by shiftless upper-crust males and abandoned by the same family’s grandfather, father and son.
Using flashbacks we follow the melodrama through the eyes of the Victor family. We learn that the aristocrat Franz Victor (Hallander Helleman), President of the Court, a small-town judge, has dutifully sworn to his father (Elith Pio) not to marry a commoner. Franz impregnated his niece’s governess Hermine Lippert (Betty Kirkebye) and abandoned her, doing the same dastardly thing his relations previously did. Later in his life, when an elderly judge, Franz goes against his family’s conservative beliefs and the stodgy mores of his society, as he decides to do the right thing. The judge is conflicted knowing that his daughter, a governess, Victorine Lippert (Olga Raphael-Linden), is on trial for having murdered her baby. Victorine was seduced and abandoned by a nobleman, and is sentenced to death. But Franz uses his office to commute her sentence. He then takes her out of her cell and flees the country with her, resigning his position and losing his privileged status in life.
REVIEWED ON 11/4/2014 GRADE: B