Dreyer's debut film "The President" (1919) is set in the late 19th century. Karl Victor von Sendlingen has to promise his dying father not to marry beneath his station, the father himself having been forced into an unhappy marriage with a girl from a lower social class when he got her pregnant.
Thirty years later, Karl Victor, a presiding judge in a small town, is sentencing to death a young woman, Victorine, who has killed her own child born in secret, when he realises that the young woman is his own daughter.
Along American lines
"'The President' immediately commands attention for its painterly imagery," film historian David Bordwell writes in his essay "The Dreyer Generation". "Its décor, highlighting bare walls or a geometrical layout of pictures and cameos, and its remarkable range of lighting, especially its night effects, have been justly praised."
In his essay packed with illustrations from the film, David Bordwell concentrates on Dreyer's editing strategies and how they update Danish filmmaking along American lines.
The Dreyer Generation
Also read Bordwell's latest post on his and Kristin Thompson's blog "Observations on film art".