Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Parson's Widow (Sweden, 1920)

If not all that glitters is gold, not everything that looks ugly is really hideous.
The film starts with a invocation to nature and the bucolic life of the countryside of a Scandinavian spot. The countrymen wore those typical peasant clothes and lived in typical landscapes of forests, lots of spaces of untouched nature and rivers.
A new parson must be elected in a village in 17th century Norway. Sofren was applying for the vacant post after having struggled hardship for years. His sweetheart Mari had remained faithfully by his side and waited for him during his years of difficulties. Mari’s father will not allow Sofren to marry her until Sofren is truly a parson. Sofren’s two rivals to the post had the utmost faith that they would win based on their beautiful clothes and education they received in Copenhagen, which implied that those fellows had a more sophisticated background than Sofren’s. Anyway, the competition was fierce, specially because the education did not prevent Sofren’s opponents from being either too boring or too ridiculous and the congregation did not find their sermons particularly interesting.
The congregation had appointed five wise and trusted men to decide who would be chosen as the new parson and Sofren was chosen. But there was a problem, which was the fact that according to the laws of the parish, Sofren was supposed to get married to Dame Margerete, who was the widow of last parson and much older than him. And Dame Margerte insisted on her right to be married. To make things worse, Sofren had heard she might be a witch and it would be the fourth time that Dame Margerete was marrying in such circumstances. She was not marrying due to sentimental reasons, but merely because it was her only way to keep the house and managing it, as she felt she was too old to leave the household she got so attached to.
Sofren and Mari decided it would be better if he married the widow, so he could become parson and when the widow died he would marry Mari. Meanwhile, Mari would live with them pretending to be Sofren’s sister and help with the house tasks. Sofren also tried to be “the master of the house” and give the orders there, but unfortunately to him the widow made it really clear that he would not be in charge of the household matters.
Time passed, Dame Margerete had not died yet and Sofren did not have any close contact with Mari, specially because the widow (who was now Sofren’s wife) had both her eyes on his whereabouts.
But one day Mari unexpectedly had a domestic fall and seriously hurt her leg. More time passed and Sofren grew fond of Dame Margerete because she had taken care of Mari day and night with lots of care. Surprisingly, Dame Margerete implied she knew that Sofren and Mari were not siblings and she also told them that she lived in similar circumstances with her first husband before they both got married.
Finally, the widow passed away, Mari and Sofren eventually got to marry and the memory of Dame Margerete was fondly kept in their minds for a long time afterwards. A sentimental end to a film that is a mix of comedy, folklore (specially in the dancing scenes), romance and drama. A romanticized view of peasantry life. Good use of landscapes and photography in a subtle humor frame, different from the marks slapstick x situational comedies, which were so much used in Hollywood at that time. The jokes are not necessarily meant to make the audiences laugh but to highlight that people could be more sneaky than they looked like at first. The most funny moments were provided by Sofren and his wide range of reactions throughout the film (sadness, happiness, gratitude, despair, etc)

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