A fine transfer of an overlooked film
Tryavna | North Carolina | 09/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If the only Carl Dreyer films you know are the excellent but somber (and theologically weighty) Passion of Joan of Arc, Ordet, and maybe Vampyr, then The Parson's Widow will come as a charming surprise. It's a pleasant silent comedy with real human warmth at its emotional center. The plot concerns a young theology student who has to marry the elderly widow of the village's former parson if he wants to obtain the position. It's genuinely funny at times and holds up quite well over the years. My favorite gag is the quick visual reference to the widow's former marriages when the minister has to fit the new wedding ring on her middle finger because she already has THREE on her third finger!
Fans of Dreyer will find key elements that appear frequently throughout his work: a religious household as the setting, strong female characters who challenge male authority, a gliding camera, and an unerring eye for historical accuracy. The performances are first-rate, too.
The transfer by David Shepard is outstanding. His restorations have been hit or miss over the years, but his work on this movie is one of his best, IMO. The aspect ratio is correct with minimal cropping throughout. There's little significant damage to the print, and the piano-only music track (of Edvard Grieg adaptations) is appropriate. As with most silent films, there is quite a bit of debris and "speckling" on the print, and there are a few frames missing now and then. But none of this is overly distracting. It may not be Criterion quality, but it is comparable to the standards set by Kino.
The inclusion of two seldom-scene shorts by Dreyer really make this disc a keeper! "They Caught the Ferry" is particularly interesting, proving that Dreyer could be surprisingly adept at filming action sequences (in this case, a high-speed motorcycle drive). Anyway, I highly recommend this title. If it's successful for Image, perhaps they'll get busy on providing Region 1 transfers of the other Dreyer silents that the Danish Film Institute has recently released on Region 2 DVDs. Or better yet, maybe they'll get around to reissuing a cleaned-up transfer of "Vampyr.""
John D. S. Camfield | vancouver, british columbia canada | 09/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THOROUGHLY WORTHWHILE VIEWING FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT DREYER IS AMONG THE GREATEST OF DIRECTORS (I CAN BELIEVE AT MOMENTS DURING HIS FILMS THAT HE IS THE GREATEST!) THE QUALITY OF THIS RELEASE IS EXCEPTIONALLY HIGH - DO NOT MISS IT. &, OF COURSE, HAVING "THORVALDSEN" AND "THEY CAUGHT THE FERRY" AS SUPPLEMENTS ON THIS DISC IS ALMOST TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE - THEY SHOULD MAKE ANY LIST OF THE GREATEST SHORTS EVER MADE."
A lovely viewing experience
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 04/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is my favourite film by the highly esteemed Danish director, Carl Theodor Dreyer, and one that I can enjoy watching many times over. Unlike Dreyer's much more famous films such as `Vampyr' and `The Passion of Joan of Arc', "The Parson's Widow" is refreshingly light and has quite a few nice touches of subtle comedy. But perhaps the main attraction of this film is its beautiful setting in a rural Scandinavian village of times gone by, with charming wood houses and churches, as well as people and costumes to match. In fact, many faces look like they were picked right out of a real rural village somewhere. Dreyer's photography techniques and ability to capture the essence of characters and feelings are evident in "The Parson's Widow", and I also enjoyed catching a rare glimpse into traditions of that time and place, such as for weddings and funerals. In fact, watching this film feels a bit like going through a kind of fairyland, while at the same time enjoying a good story about a young parson who must marry the previous parson's widow to get the job - and he can't marry his sweetheart unless he gets the job! Quite a dilemma which leaves the viewer curious about the outcome, and the story unfolds fairly quickly with a few funny turns, leading to a satisfying ending. Adding to viewing pleasure is a nice piano score based on classical Scandinavian music, and the picture quality is extremely good overall.
As a bonus, there are two short films by Dreyer from the later 1940s, each one quite different and with its own qualities. Most poignant is the 10-minute motorbike ride ("They Caught the Ferry") which feels very real to the viewer and gets the message across. For a total change of pace, the other short is a documentary on the work of Denmark's most famous sculpture which Dreyer photographed beautifully and thereby managed to make a boring topic (for many) quite enjoyable after all. All up, some rare films worth seeing, especially to see another side of Dreyer's work in this delightful silent, "The Parson's Widow".