(out of 5)
Fascinating pre-cursor to The Crucible features Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer examining religious fanaticism. The subject is a young woman (Lisbeth Movin) recently married to a much older widower in 19th-century Denmark. When her husband’s handsome young son (Preben Lerdorff Rye) comes home from his studies to live with his family, our heroine finds herself irresistibly attracted to him, and it is not long before they consummate their passion for one another. The fact of their affair is obvious to no one but the husband’s prying old mother, who eventually decides to cast an accusation of witchcraft against her household rival to appease her jealousy. Though it takes its time meticulously combing over every detail with no rush in its pacing and no overtly dramatic moments, the film builds steadily to a gripping climax and a fantastic, powerful ending. The acting is superb, and Dreyer’s assured direction unforgettable. Movin and Rye would later appear as adulterous lovers in the wonderful 1987 classic Babette’s Feast.
Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
Cinematography by Karl Andersson
Produced by Carl Theodor Dreyer, Tage Nielsen
Music by Poul Schierbeck
Production Design by Erik Aaes