706 Master of the House

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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TMDaines
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Re: 706 Master of the House

#76 Post by TMDaines » Wed Feb 04, 2015 10:08 am

As per twitter, the BFI to release Master of the House in both Danish- and English-intertitled versions.

\:D/

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MichaelB
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Re: 706 Master of the House

#77 Post by MichaelB » Sat Apr 04, 2015 6:50 pm

Gaaaah! I've just typed up a massive expansion of Sloper's list, adding the Danish, new BFI subtitles and new BFI intertitles, but the BASTARD forum logged me out, and when I'd logged back in the bloody thing had vanished!

Which is doubly annoying as I'd identified lots of fascinating differences between all four versions (since the BFI's encodes of the Danish and English versions are separate), and of course we can now compare translations/rewrites against the Danish original.

Oh well, I'll see if I can muster the energy to do it all over again, but it's nearly midnight so I certainly won't be doing it tonight.

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domino harvey
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Re: 706 Master of the House

#78 Post by domino harvey » Sat Apr 04, 2015 6:55 pm

Awful to hear but unfortunately one usually learns the hard way when making a long post to always select all + copy before hitting submit on any forum

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jindianajonz
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Re: 706 Master of the House

#79 Post by jindianajonz » Sat Apr 04, 2015 7:24 pm

domino harvey wrote:Awful to hear but unfortunately one usually learns the hard way when making a long post to always select all + copy before hitting submit on any forum
I take a refresher course every few months, just to be safe.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#80 Post by Calvin » Sat Apr 04, 2015 7:48 pm

It may depend on your browser, but I often find clicking 'back' gives me the entry form as I last left it.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#81 Post by MichaelB » Sun Apr 05, 2015 3:36 am

I'm so happy for you. Have a guess whether I tried that in every conceivable combination?

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domino harvey
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Re: 706 Master of the House

#82 Post by domino harvey » Thu Nov 24, 2016 1:34 pm

Watched this via the BFI set and found the first half so effective in setting up the everyday torture of an abusive relationship that the pussyfooting second half, with all its apologies and (comparatively) gentle treatment of the protagonist never seemed to deliver the comeuppance promised by his misdeeds. All the wonderful eggshell walking of the first half is far more bold in its portrayal of the put-upon housewives of the land than the preachy second half. I'm sure salvation and rehabilitation was/is possible for abusive husbands and fathers, but I don't think the film gave us much more than a reversion to childhood at the hands of a strong matronly woman rather than showing how inner strength to be a Good Man could flourish (or be reignited if one believes he once was a good man). For all its claims to being progressive, I found its sexual politics remained fully regressive and traditional throughout, despite all bold RESPECT HER intertitles to the contrary

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Master of the House (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1925)

#83 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:08 pm

DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, JANUARY 15th.

Members have a two week period in which to discuss the film before it's moved to its dedicated thread in The Criterion Collection subforum. Please read the Rules and Procedures.

This thread is not spoiler free. This is a discussion thread; you should expect plot points of the individual films under discussion to be discussed openly. See: spoiler rules.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

I encourage members to submit questions, either those designed to elicit discussion and point out interesting things to keep an eye on, or just something you want answered. This will be extremely helpful in getting discussion started. Starting is always the hardest part, all the more so if it's unguided. Questions can be submitted to me via PM.

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Drucker
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Re: Master of the House (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1925)

#84 Post by Drucker » Thu Jan 04, 2018 9:40 pm

I just didn't care for this film at all. Though I know I've watched it before, I am pretty shocked at how little I remembered about it. The "magic" that exists in Dreyer's best work is just not present here. While we are treated to a chamber drama that is made to feel as if the camera is quite literally in the house (per Dreyer's goals and intentions), it's hard not to view this film as a sermon as much as a film. Dreyer's mother died at a very young age and this film spends far more time telling the viewer that they should hold mothers in as high regard as Dreyer does than really doing anything interesting cinematically.

In the main thread, Domino praises the depiction of an abusive relationship. To me, the first hour is nothing but redundant. Literally everything anyone does in the household is greeted by the father as a pain. He interrupts all action that isn't centered around him as ignoring him, and all action centered around him is inadequate. Dreyer undermines his own effectiveness with intertitles throughout the film telling the viewer exactly what to think. There is no subtlety. There is no magic. The moments of realization for this film are explicitly laid out, which separates this from Dreyer's greatest films. There is no lesson that isn't repeatedly hammered home.

Is the problem here that Dreyer so focused on creating something realistic that the form is favored over the story? Perhaps. It's easy to imagine a different Dreyer film that works better. A film that touches on the couple's earliest happiness, briefly shows the evolution of their relationship, shows the hardship that leads to the abusiveness, and most importantly: spends time with the husband as he learns his lesson. That film could do these things without an outside party describing the emotions every step of the way. Dreyer does these things incredibly effectively in his other films (especially the previous year's Michael.)

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Re: Master of the House (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1925)

#85 Post by Rayon Vert » Fri Jan 05, 2018 1:18 pm

Drucker wrote:Is the problem here that Dreyer so focused on creating something realistic that the form is favored over the story? Perhaps.
That was my impression. I share the same lack of appreciation as you do, Drucker. Innovative in form and technique, but story/content is predictable and dull. I just don't see it.

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Re: Master of the House (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1925)

#86 Post by Roscoe » Fri Jan 05, 2018 3:46 pm

THE PARSON'S WIDOW is a far more interesting film -- funnier and livelier with a genuine tear-inducing ending. It deserves to be better known.

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Drucker
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Re: Master of the House (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1925)

#87 Post by Drucker » Fri Jan 05, 2018 4:01 pm

I would even argue the incredibly melodramatic The President is a far better film! There's a ton of messaging about social values in that film, and yet the twists and emotional reach of the film have a far greater impact. I've seen every Dreyer film and I think this may be the worst.

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Re: Master of the House (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1925)

#88 Post by knives » Fri Jan 05, 2018 4:27 pm

I'd put Satan's Book beneath this, but otherwise I agree it is not one of Dreyer's better outings.

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Re: Master of the House (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1925)

#89 Post by Sloper » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:06 pm

Drucker, I like the sound of your alternate version of this film – as you say, Michael is a much richer character study, and consistently ambiguous and complex where Master of the House is preachy and simplistic. The original title, Thou shalt honour thy wife, is sort of a giveaway, and shows that Dreyer was attempting something quite different in this film. It’s not one of my favourites either, and sometimes I just don’t enjoy it at all, but if I can get into the right mood I do find it very powerful. Like Joan, it’s best watched silent. In that film, we’re supposed to experience the heroine’s ‘passion’ in real time, to feel the air vibrate as the men bellow abuse at her, and to hear the silence that seems to encase her in her moments of ecstasy. A great deal of Master of the House also feels like it’s happening in real time, and since ordinary domestic life doesn’t tend to have a musical soundtrack, I find that the available scores for this film dilute its effectiveness: they have a becalming, soporific effect, whereas with the sound off you can feel the build-up of tension that domino refers to in the post linked to above:
domino harvey wrote:All the wonderful eggshell walking of the first half is far more bold in its portrayal of the put-upon housewives of the land than the preachy second half. I'm sure salvation and rehabilitation was/is possible for abusive husbands and fathers, but I don't think the film gave us much more than a reversion to childhood at the hands of a strong matronly woman rather than showing how inner strength to be a Good Man could flourish (or be reignited if one believes he once was a good man).
I too like the first half better than the second, because as domino says it’s a brilliant portrayal of life under an abuser. Dreyer is an absolute master at establishing, developing and shifting the mood of a scene.

To begin with, we have this minutely detailed chronicle of the morning chores. Nothing happens, really, but as well as feeling immersed in these familiar domestic routines, we can also sense the underlying tension. Everyone is just a little too downcast – even before Viktor has woken up, we can tell this is a house strewn with eggshells. I love that moment when the wife is in the dark attic hanging clothes, and the daughter runs up and warns her to hurry, because father is stirring. The silent anxiety hanging in the air isn’t over-emphasised, but you still feel that slight contraction in the stomach at the prospect of Viktor getting out of bed. Not only do the family members have to do their chores quietly, out of the way in dark rooms, they also have to rush them in order to be on hand when Viktor finally wakes up. This is why I don’t think this film simply favours form over content: it’s not just a realistic but empty catalogue of quotidian drudgery, it also works quite subtly to imbue every one of these domestic details with anxiety – the anxiety that trickles down from the abusive ‘master’, just as the ‘master’ in Michael spreads his own decadent lethargy throughout his household, until we can feel it in every gesture and every object that we see, and understand why Michael wants to escape.

The best sequence in Master of the House is, I think, the one where Mads slaps Viktor, he grabs her arms and struggles with her, and then Ida tries to restrain him and he turns around and throws her to the floor. We’ve felt the tension slowly building for several reels, and now it explodes in an outburst of physical violence. There’s something horribly authentic about this violence: it’s just a slap, and a bit of arm wrestling, and a casual push that (perhaps unintentionally) causes Ida to fall. By the usual standards of film or stage violence, it’s pretty mild. Viktor himself, abuser that he is, clearly doesn’t take it seriously at all. But for us, if we’re in tune with the mood the film has carefully been establishing, it feels terrifying – as such ‘mild’ violence does when it occurs in this sort of context in real life. You feel your stomach contract again, your heartrate quickens, your toes curl; it’s brilliantly horrible.

But even more impressive is the aftermath, when Viktor has left and the mood gradually settles down. The daughter comes out from hiding and tends to her mother, Frederik can finally blow his nose, change his socks, and have a bowl of hot porridge (in a quietly heart-breaking touch, his mother adds an unholy amount of butter and sugar). For a while the mother has to just stare into space, while the two older women sit down at the table and get their bearings, before clearing everything away. I’m always amazed at Dreyer’s ability to get all of this – the details, the timing, the emotions – exactly right. It may actually be the most moving part of the film. The scene kind of ‘breathes out’ very slowly: there’s a strong sense of relief, and everyone is touchingly, un-fussily gentle and kind with each other, but they’re also visibly traumatised. As we experience this sense of shell-shock in the quiet after the storm, we realise that the tension and anxiety at the start of the film were the long drawn-out aftermath of a series of such incidents. These people are in a constant state of both recovering from and anticipating Viktor’s abuse, and his little jibes and complaints, as well as being upsetting in themselves, are also possible harbingers of worse cruelty (which of course is triggered when someone dares to stand up to the bastard).

Also worth mentioning that Astrid Holm is wonderful in a potentially thankless role. Whereas in Joan, Dreyer focused intrusively on Falconetti’s extreme facial expressions through an endless series of extreme close-ups, in Master he tends to keep his distance from the heroine. That’s not just because it’s an earlier, less experimental film – Michael has a lot more close-ups too, and more expressive acting from the leads. But Ida is being slowly swallowed up and absorbed by her own home, and the relative lack of close-ups underlines this, as does Holm’s remarkably understated performance. Dreyer could have asked her to be more weepy and histrionic, but instead she has the unmistakeable ‘I’m not here’ demeanour of an abuse victim, her face frequently blank when Viktor is insulting her, her performance of her chores precise, practised and mechanical. There are some nice, unassuming camera movements in this film: the tracking shot when Ida and her daughter are making the sandwiches shows the complex coordination of objects on the sideboard, as the two women collaborate to get the food ready as efficiently as possible. It’s like a little production line, and just as de-humanising. But then there’s the very brief dolly shot as Ida carries the baby through the living room, when Viktor is out, and we feel the space come to life for a moment, and realise how claustrophobic it feels the rest of the time; Ida hasn’t lost her capacity for joy, and her home could theoretically be a happy one.

As for how convincing Viktor’s reformation is... I don’t think he simply reverts to childhood under Mads’ rule; quite the opposite, in a way. If there is a hint that he can be redeemed at the start, it’s in his obvious, and somewhat comical, childishness. When he realises that Ida has truly left, and that throwing a tantrum and threatening Mads’ bird and terrifying his daughter won’t bring his wife back, we see him sober up and begin to behave like a mature adult for the very first time. It does feel like we’re now getting a glimpse of how Viktor used to be, before his professional life went down the drain. By resuming her role as his ‘nanny’ to some extent, Mads forces him to confront the immaturity and irresponsibility of his behaviour – you could argue that Viktor is never more grown up and responsible than when he finally swallows his pride and stands in the corner. But yes, ultimately this stuff is all a bit corny and inauthentic. Beautifully executed as it is, I tend to find it quite hard to swallow. The very inauthenticity of it makes it kind of moving, though.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#90 Post by tartarlamb » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:37 pm

Loved this as a document of domestic labor, especially in the first half, where the Taylorization and labor division of this home are made excruciatingly clear. As a proto-feminist narrative, it doesn't really go as far as, say, The Smiling Madame Beudet which came a few years earlier. Dulac examine the depths of a trapped wife's subconscious, her dreams and violent impulses (the other side of the abuse victim that Sloper mentions, and is right to point out Ida's vacant stare as powerful in itself). The second half must be played off as a comedy, since the sudden dynamism of Viktor's character can only be explained in a comedic context. But I'm not sure Dreyer pulls it off, since most of the film is mired in the brooding atmosphere that results from Viktor's terror.

Mads is a benevolent inversion of Day of Wrath's Merete, and the whole film kind of flips Once Upon a Time, in which a prince must instruct a haughty princess in humility before she can find love. It's a way more original film, though. This "lesson in humility" plot is also present in Passion of Joan of Arc in a much more malevolent form, as the clergy wear and humiliate Joan down to obtain a confession.

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