The President ★★★½

Dreyer's dazzling directorial debut: a dense intergenerational saga told via flashbacks, epistolary title cards, and tense crosscutting. Dark irony builds as Præsidenten lays out how gender and class divisions skew so-called justice. (As true now as it was a century ago!) New wrongs compound old wrongs, a cycle reversible only through heartbreaking sacrifice. Dreyer calibrates every technique for maximum pathos, whether isolating close-ups with irises or shooting a couple's first kiss through its reflection in a river. One pan sweeps across a courtroom as it's vacated; another encompasses the full length of a country house. The lone dolly shot prowls down an aisle during a sparsely attended wedding until it finds the only occupied pew. Camera movement is omnipresent now and easy to take for granted, so it feels like a tonic to see it used so sparingly and in the service of bitter melodrama.