The President

Judith Rosenberg on Piano

(Praesidenten). Dreyer's directorial debut is a gorgeous example of the kind of pulpy melodramas popular among silent film audiences, filled with aristocrats acting badly, doomed proles, and exaggerated acts of fate and coincidence, all presented with a confident visual aesthetic that belies Dreyer's youthfulness. “My son, I have lived a wretch and I shall die a wretch. But I shall not bemoan my fate if it serves as a warning to you!” weeps a wealthy father to his adult son, beginning this tale of several generations of dissolute young aristocrats with a penchant for buxom servant lasses and miscreant procreation. Even in his debut, Dreyer already possesses a master's eye: a lakeside courtship scene revels in the beauty of the countryside; a montage of doors, hands, and keys hanging on a wall conveys the secrecy of a prison break; and, most impressively, a judge's dinner is cut to the march of an onrushing, torch-wielding mob. Silent cinema at its most crowd-pleasing, The President is great fun.

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