Prästänkan (The Witch Woman) (1920)




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In this silent, Sofren has just finished his studies and has come to a village with his fiancée, Mari, hoping to be appointed parson at the little Norwegian village where the previous parson has just died. The village has two other candidates for the post. Sofren succeeds where the other two failed by relying on the old tried and trusted method of putting the fear of God into the people of the village. He is hired, but upon his appointment he discovers that the widow of the late parson, Dame Margarete, through some strange local custom, has the right to marry the new parson. Needless to say, she's a formidable-looking ancient battle-axe who is reputed to have witch-like powers. Sofren has no choice however. All he can hope is that the old woman, already three times married, dies soon - with perhaps a little help from outside forces if necessary...


Critic Reviews for Prästänkan (The Witch Woman)

Audience Reviews for Prästänkan (The Witch Woman)

Both humorous and touching, even by today's standards, you can really see where Carl Th. Dreyer's reputation as a cinematic pioneer came from watching this. The Parson's Widow abounds with technical innovation, such as the first split-screen, to wit, and it mixes tones and genres with surprising fluidity. There's a little bit of inconsistency in some of the characterizations, although the acting is excellent; the most obvious example is Dame Margarete's frigid reception of her new husband, which seems totally at-odds with her characterization in the latter portion of the film. It sort of seems like a drop in the bucket, especially considering Hildur Carlberg's potent performance. She has a haunted, sad, lived-in face that makes the final minutes of the film legitimately heartbreaking. Definitely worth catching for anyone interested in silent film, film history, the genesis of Dreyer as an influential auteur, the creation of the tragicomedy...hell, this has value to just about anyone who can bring themselves to watch an "old movie." Emphatically recommended.

Drew Smith
Drew Smith

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