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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Tommaso
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Re: 706 Master of the House

#51 Post by Tommaso » Mon Dec 22, 2014 8:48 am

Of course there are very few discs which employ seamless branching, but for instance most - if not all - the German silents released by divisared use seamless branching (Spanish titles/German titles), and they did a very fine job with these, absolutely hassle-free. And I don't think that this Spanish label had a very high production budget for these titles.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: 706 Master of the House

#52 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Dec 22, 2014 9:47 am

TMDaines wrote:Overlapping intertitles and subtitles may be an issue for Criterion, but for many of us, including myself, it is the lesser of two evils and is simply part and parcel of watching silent (and, indeed, foreign) films. Some overlap or masking is a small price to pay to main the flavour and original text of the film.
English is already an original text of the film, so this flavour you talk of, if it isn't imaginary, is already represented by what's on screen.
TMDaines wrote:Where is the evidence of this? A director-approved alternative version is not necessarily the same as it being the original. It can often be the lesser of two evils if distributors will not play your work otherwise.
Quibbling over the word "original" is a pointless activity. Debating the motivations of a dead stranger moreso. There is only one relevant point: a version in English was created on release and approved by Dreyer. It is an original, director-approved version, more original than the Danish one at the moment since we don't have the original Danish intertitles whereas we do have the English ones. Neither is strictly ideal, but neither can be discounted, either.
TMDaines wrote:If what you are saying is the case however, why are Criterion not providing us with a definitive release of the film? Hopefully the BFI will do. I, personally, would see far greater value in having both:

A) Danish with optional subtitles
B) Original English language version (so one can see how the material was adapted for the time)

Rather than Criterion's fence-sitting effort.
Having the original English to see the adaptation is a good idea. Criterion didn't want to do it due to space (and perhaps cost), ect. Maybe these are good reasons, maybe not, I don't know.

Fence-sitting is refusing to choose. Criterion made a choice, and that is to commission a new translation and maintain the look of the reconstructed Danish text. This was a good choice in a unique and unideal situation. It neither violates Dreyer's intentions (as we see, he was flexible and approved of the film being seen in English) nor replaces original Danish intertitles with a reconstruction (the Danish ones were already created ex post facto).

So, I can see why someone would want the original English intertitles, but there is no coherent reason to be upset about not having the Danish ones unless you speak Danish.

This ought to be at the very worst a minor disagreement about preference. It does not merit this level of complaining.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#53 Post by EddieLarkin » Mon Dec 22, 2014 10:32 am

I'd care a lot more about this issue if it was the original film based intertitles that were scrapped in favour of a recreation, but that hasn't happened here, and Criterion have made efforts to preserve the "flavour" of the original Danish titles as well. We may yet see Palladium's recreated Danish intertitles on the BFI release anyway; they might find that unlike Criterion they can make them work subtitled, or even if they're not entirely happy with the results, may not have the budget to license Criterion's new English titles or create their own.

Though I am wary of directors approving of altered foreign versions of their film, and that being used to justify localisation changes to the original. Directors like Miyazaki Hayao would tell you that for an English speaking audience, he much prefers they see the film dubbed due to concerns over subtitles distracting from the images. If in 100 years we no longer have the soundtrack to Mononoke-hime, will statements like this from the director lead preservationists to not bother with a recreation of a Japanese dub, and instead merely try and recreate a more faithful English dub? I am of course conflating soundtracks and intertitles here, which is no doubt very silly of me.

Anyway, a more interesting point of comparison for me will be the video presentation. This film will be the first of Criterion's interlaced silents to get what I assume will be a progressive release elsewhere, and it'll be interesting to see what improvements may be apparent (or, if the film is 22fps, if any stuttering is introduced). Does anyone know the required frame rate for the film, and what Criterion use on their release?

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#54 Post by TMDaines » Mon Dec 22, 2014 10:42 am

Mr Sausage wrote:English is already an original text of the film, so this flavour you talk of, if it isn't imaginary, is already represented by what's on screen.
Clearly, it is not imaginary as several others have commented on it in this thread and on this forum with other silent films. For you, it might not be an integral part. For others, it is key.
Mr Sausage wrote:Quibbling over the word "original" is a pointless activity. Debating the motivations of a dead stranger moreso. There is only one relevant point: a version in English was created on release and approved by Dreyer. It is an original, director-approved version, more original than the Danish one at the moment since we don't have the original Danish intertitles whereas we do have the English ones. Neither is strictly ideal, but neither can be discounted, either.
The part I have bolded is completely incorrect, according to my understanding and this is where I believe you are simply wrong. I am happy to learn otherwise.

My understanding, from Criterion's message, is that we still have the text of the original Danish intertitles. This is what the new English translation was created from. If not, what were they working from? What doesn't exist is the actual original intertitles from the original prints, but it seems Palladium still had evidence of their design. From that, Palladium digitally recreated both the Danish and English intertitles which are true to the Danish and English prints at the time of release. Criterion decided they did not want either - the Danish because they were too big to superimpose easily legible subtitles over and the English because they were outdated and not true enough to the Danish text - and they therefore decided to create their own third modern English set, copying Palladium's design with permission.

This is therefore why I believe it is fair to claim the Danish intertitles as the original, because Criterion decided to do a fresh translation of them for their English intertitles and dismissed the Dreyer-approved English ones as not being true to them!

This is not a case where the source text is lost and they are trying to work back and approximate the original from translations.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#55 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Dec 22, 2014 11:52 am

TMDaines wrote:The part I have bolded is completely incorrect, according to my understanding and this is where I believe you are simply wrong. I am happy to learn otherwise.
Completely incorrect?
Criterion wrote:We also learned that the intertitles of the newly restored Danish version are not original to the film (those original film elements burned in a fire back in the 1950s), but are a digital reconstruction created by Palladium.
"We don't have the original Danish intertitles" is exactly what this says. What we have is something else (script?) from which the intertitles were reconstructed digitally and reinserted into the film. My argument has been constructed with purism in mind, as any purist would be forced to admit that the Danish intertitles are less pure than the English ones and about equally pure as Criterion's own reconstruction.

This is not a point that I would ever concern myself with, personally, but I am not arguing with myself.
TMDaines wrote:This is therefore why I believe it is fair to claim the Danish intertitles as the original, because Criterion decided to do a fresh translation of them for their English intertitles and dismissed the Dreyer-approved English ones as not being true to them!
My definition of original is simple: what was part of the film elements at the time of creation and release as approved by the filmmakers. Your definition of original is whatever best suits your argument here, now.

Criterion's decision not to use the English intertitles had nothing to do with their being true to the Danish ones or not (the differences are, as far as I can tell, cosmetic--different names, a different equation) and a lot to do with not believing an English audience needed those changes any longer to appreciate the film and figured Dreyer wouldn't mind some further tinkering with the intertitles for a current release for English audiences.
TMDaines wrote:This is not a case where the source text is lost and they are trying to work back and approximate the original from translations.
No one, here or elsewhere, has ever claimed that was the case.


As I don't feel there is anything I could say to make you reconsider your arguments, there is no reason for me to continue. Thanks for the conversation.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#56 Post by swo17 » Mon Dec 22, 2014 12:42 pm

Criterion wrote:As a loyal Criterion viewer, you likely know by now that we consider every film on a case by case basis. Our choice for MASTER OF THE HOUSE does not affect future foreign-language silent films. When we can find a way to preserve the original intertitles, we certainly will.
I think this part about treating things case by case is key. I'm all for preserving original intertitles too, but in degrees. For a film with stylized intertitles (like Caligari), it's pretty much imperative. For plain text I'm more flexible, so long as the English intertitles don't look distractingly modern. But even this is simplifying matters too much. It's clear Criterion explored several possibilities and put a lot of thought into this decision (and into this response--how often are they this candid about a criticism of one of their releases?) and I'm willing to defer to their experience and judgment in this case.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#57 Post by TMDaines » Mon Dec 22, 2014 12:52 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:My argument has been constructed with purism in mind, as any purist would be forced to admit that the Danish intertitles are less pure than the English ones and about equally pure as Criterion's own reconstruction.
I cannot get my head around your reasoning here. How is Criterion's fresh translation just as "pure" as either the Danish original from which it has been translated or the Dreyer-approved English ones that were dismissed? One was presumably worked on by the director, the other was approved by him, but Criterion's third is neither.
Mr Sausage wrote:Criterion's decision not to use the English intertitles had nothing to do with their being true to the Danish ones or not (the differences are, as far as I can tell, cosmetic--different names, a different equation) and a lot to do with not believing an English audience needed those changes any longer to appreciate the film and figured Dreyer wouldn't mind some further tinkering with the intertitles for a current release for English audiences.
Again, this is where I feel you are misguided. I have compared a number of intertitles from the (Dreyer-approved) Palladium English version and the Criterion English and it is a fresh translation. Criterion themselves bill it as a "New English intertitle translation", we have their methodology here and that is exactly what it is. The Paladium English version can be found here and I have relied on screenshots of the Criterion version from reviews online.
Mr Sausage wrote:
TMDaines wrote:This is not a case where the source text is lost and they are trying to work back and approximate the original from translations.
No one, here or elsewhere, has ever claimed that was the case.
I'm struggling to work out what you are claiming here in that case:
Mr Sausage wrote:Quibbling over the word "original" is a pointless activity. Debating the motivations of a dead stranger moreso. There is only one relevant point: a version in English was created on release and approved by Dreyer. It is an original, director-approved version, more original than the Danish one at the moment since we don't have the original Danish intertitles whereas we do have the English ones. Neither is strictly ideal, but neither can be discounted, either.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#58 Post by TMDaines » Mon Dec 22, 2014 12:56 pm

By the way, the BFI just contacted me on twitter and said that they have no plans for Danish intertitles on their Master of the House Blu-ray: twitter.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#59 Post by Lemmy Caution » Mon Dec 22, 2014 1:07 pm

Criterion's decision sounds quite nice to me.
look forward to seeing this.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#60 Post by movielocke » Mon Dec 22, 2014 1:16 pm

Interesting to note that Criterion would be praised for creating a fresh translation of a sound film, even if burned in simplified or wrong subtitles had been the standard for 70 years, people would be thrilled that criterion did the right thing.

Silent films are in a unique place, they are far more universal than sound films. Preserving the original intertitles does two things, it preserves the particular visual aesthetic of the look of the text and it preserves for the audience the foreignness--the 'other'ness if you will--of the film's origin. So you have to balance the two, preserve the universality of silent film as experienced by audiences around the world, or stroke the egos of modern audiences who want to have a foreign experience that is very different from how it was originally experienced.

I think Criterion took the correct approach of trying to preserve the visual aesthetic of the original language intertitles but translated into the dominant language of the country they are releasing the film into because it's better for what a silent film is and was rather than what some want silent film to be (closer to foreign language flims in sound).

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#61 Post by EddieLarkin » Mon Dec 22, 2014 1:42 pm

TMDaines wrote:By the way, the BFI just contacted me on twitter and said that they have no plans for Danish intertitles on their Master of the House Blu-ray: twitter.
Interesting. In that case, have they licensed Criterion's new intertitles, are they creating their own, or are they just going to use the English originals direct from Palladium, despite them being dumbed down?

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#62 Post by TMDaines » Mon Dec 22, 2014 1:52 pm

movielocke wrote:or stroke the egos of modern audiences who want to have a foreign experience that is very different from how it was originally experienced.
See, for me at least, this is nothing to with ego or fetishising the exotic nature of something. Film is special, almost unique, in that audiences around the world can view an work in its original form, whether that be a sound film or silent, and have subtitles to guide them and aid the process of interpretation whilst still seeing the original.

My reasoning would be, if you do not read German, you cannot hope to ever truly read Die Leiden des jungen Werthers. All you can hope for is fairly faithful adaptation, but you can never truly experience Goethe's writing. Far, far too much is lost in translation. However, even if you do not speak German, you can still view Fassbinder's original works and subtitles will simply assist you in interpreting it, without ever attempting to replace the original. No translation is perfect, so subtitles cannot hope to be, but at least they do not replace the original, whether that be with silent film or sound film.

In a separate point, I do not really see the argument for experiencing films in the way they would have been shown in Britain or America in the past, because films have been mistreated or tarnished for decades in the pursuit of profit or censorship. It does not mean we should carry on that way nor would people want it. The English versions at the time of release of many of great silents were complete hack jobs without regard for the integrity of the work.
EddieLarkin wrote:
TMDaines wrote:By the way, the BFI just contacted me on twitter and said that they have no plans for Danish intertitles on their Master of the House Blu-ray: twitter.
Interesting. In that case, have they licensed Criterion's new intertitles, are they creating their own, or are they just going to use the English originals direct from Palladium, despite them being dumbed down?
No idea at the moment. The best people can do is to contact them to try and encourage them to go the extra mile. I sent them a link to this thread.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#63 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Dec 22, 2014 3:12 pm

TMDaines wrote:I'm struggling to work out what you are claiming here in that case:
Mr Sausage wrote:Quibbling over the word "original" is a pointless activity. Debating the motivations of a dead stranger moreso. There is only one relevant point: a version in English was created on release and approved by Dreyer. It is an original, director-approved version, more original than the Danish one at the moment since we don't have the original Danish intertitles whereas we do have the English ones. Neither is strictly ideal, but neither can be discounted, either.
Well I did explain exactly what I meant in my last post:
Mr Sausage wrote:My definition of original is simple: what was part of the film elements at the time of creation and release as approved by the filmmakers.
Maybe there is a confusion between "text" and "intertitle"? The text is the words as written, which can be from any source. The intertitles are the text as displayed in the original film elements as created by the filmmakers. This is my understanding of those words.

So when I say the original Danish intertitles have been lost, I do not mean the text itself has been lost. Credit me at least with enough reading comprehension skills to've understood Criterion's message.

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706 Master of the House

#64 Post by TMDaines » Mon Dec 22, 2014 6:01 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:Quibbling over the word "original" is a pointless activity. Debating the motivations of a dead stranger moreso. There is only one relevant point: a version in English was created on release and approved by Dreyer. It is an original, director-approved version, more original than the Danish one at the moment since we don't have the original Danish intertitles whereas we do have the English ones. Neither is strictly ideal, but neither can be discounted, either.
I was querying the suggestion that the original Danish intertitles are lost and the Dreyer-approved English titles are in existence (and are in use here by Criterion, albeit in digitally-recreated form). This is not the case - either in terms of what is lost and or what Criterion have used.

As I have since stated above, Criterion's titles do not match the description that you are giving them elsewhere previously. Their text is not of the Dreyer-approved titles, with solely the changes that Criterion gave and the odd other tweak (as you suggested), but are in fact a complete fresh translation of the Danish source. Criterion freely share this in their message and this is indeed the case. This can be compared by examining the Youtube video I posted and Criterion's release.

It's, of course, great that they have done a fresh, more faithful translation for the modern audience viewing the film, but from a scholarly (and an aficionado's) perspective we neither have A) the original Danish titles/text, nor B) the Dreyer-approved English titles/text. It would have made fine subtitles!
Mr Sausage wrote:Maybe there is a confusion between "text" and "intertitle"? The text is the words as written, which can be from any source. The intertitles are the text as displayed in the original film elements as created by the filmmakers. This is my understanding of those words.

So when I say the original Danish intertitles have been lost, I do not mean the text itself has been lost.
I would suggest intertitle can refer to the title cards or the text itself, in the same way it does for subtitles or surtitles. The dual use of the term probably doesn't help our discussion.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#65 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Dec 22, 2014 6:31 pm

TMDaines wrote:I was querying the suggestion that the original Danish intertitles are lost and the Dreyer-approved English titles are in existence (and are in use here by Criterion, albeit in digitally-recreated form). This is not the case - either in terms of what is lost and or what Criterion have used.

As I have since stated above, Criterion's titles do not match the description that you are giving them elsewhere previously. Their text is not of the Dreyer-approved titles, with solely the changes that Criterion gave and the odd other tweak (as you suggested), but are in fact a complete fresh translation of the Danish source. Criterion freely share this in their message and this is indeed the case. This can be compared by examining the Youtube video I posted and Criterion's release.
I am trying my hardest to remain patient, but you are straining me to the limit here. I thought if I made no new arguments this would stop, yet I have to keep coming back just to clear up confusions about basic points from all my old arguments!
Mr. Sausage wrote:Having the original English to see the adaptation is a good idea. Criterion didn't want to do it due to space (and perhaps cost), ect. Maybe these are good reasons, maybe not, I don't know.

Fence-sitting is refusing to choose. Criterion made a choice, and that is to commission a new translation and maintain the look of the reconstructed Danish text. This was a good choice in a unique and unideal situation. It neither violates Dreyer's intentions (as we see, he was flexible and approved of the film being seen in English) nor replaces original Danish intertitles with a reconstruction (the Danish ones were already created ex post facto).
Mr. Sausage wrote:Criterion's decision not to use the English intertitles had nothing to do with their being true to the Danish ones or not (the differences are, as far as I can tell, cosmetic--different names, a different equation) and a lot to do with not believing an English audience needed those changes any longer to appreciate the film and figured Dreyer wouldn't mind some further tinkering with the intertitles for a current release for English audiences.
Mr. Sausage wrote:Obviously Dreyer was flexible based on audience and Criterion took that flexibility as an added reason to modify things for a current English audience that no longer needs things (if it ever did) dumbed down. Dreyer's initial meaning is maintained, but communicated to the English audience he'd always wanted to court.
Mr. Sausage wrote:D. Therefore: Criterion created a compromise between the two versions, creating a version in a language Dreyer had approved, but maintaining the greater intelligence and the look of the Danish text (itself not original).
Tell me again how I'm describing Criterion's intertitles as the Dreyer-approved ones?

And I'm not going to bother about the the Danish intertitles being lost thing again. After three explanations you still can't seem to get it. It's a lost cause.

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Master of the House

#66 Post by Lemmy Caution » Wed Dec 24, 2014 6:04 am

Instead of quibbling over the language of the intertitles, I'd complain about their content. Man, those are some heavy-handed, preachy, didactic titles. Also, the film becomes increasingly talkie as the film winds down, necessitating more dialogue intertitles, which made the last 1/4 of the film drag.
Lastly, I didn't care for the look of the intertitles, as the font was too large and thick and bright. Yes, I realize my complaints are about the original film itself.
But this film didn't do much for me at all.

I guess the idea was to give the Master some of his own medicine, but I was amused how everyone acts heavy-handed and imperious -- including the doctor.
Not the most subtle of films -- I felt like I was being whacked over the head by Mads' stick with the film's message. I did appreciate the extras detailing a missing scene/digression that explained the clock ending, which otherwise seemed somewhat random.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#67 Post by Sloper » Wed Dec 24, 2014 8:16 am

I sympathise with your reaction to the film, Lemmy – it is very preachy and smug at times, and there are indeed too many intertitles. This is often a problem in Dreyer’s silent films, especially when the titles stay on the screen for too long (as I think they do on Criterion’s edition). That said, there’s a huge amount to admire in Master of the House, even if you find it hard to like. For all the sledgehammer obviousness of the overall message, it is conveyed through thousands of subtle details in the acting, direction, editing and set decoration. My irritation with the story wore off after the first viewing, and since then I’ve found it an incredibly rewarding film to re-visit.

Speaking only of the DVD, it’s a wonderful presentation of the film, with great extras, and vastly improved picture quality over the BFI. I would rather have subtitled intertitles, even with a grey box around them, but can understand Criterion’s reasoning here. However, all that being the case I think they needed to spend longer getting the translation right. Casper Tybjerg has done so much superlative work on Dreyer, and for me his commentaries are pretty much second to none – but these intertitles are very stilted at times, as you might expect from translators whose first language is not English. Someone needed to go through these and make them a bit more idiomatic... In many cases, the BFI versions were far superior. Below are a few comparisons:

CC: ‘Here is one of Frederik’s stockings – I’ll say, I cannot make anything out of that!’
BFI: ‘I can’t do anything with this stocking of Frederik’s.’

Ida, instructing Karen while folding the sheet:
CC: ‘Do make an effort, otherwise it is no help!’
BFI: ‘It’s no good unless you pull really hard!’

CC: ‘It is too heavy for you. Rather go fetch me some potatoes.’
BFI: ‘That’s too heavy for you, dear. Run and get me some potatoes instead.’

CC: ‘Do mind your hands a bit, Karen!’
BFI: ‘Karen, you’ll simply ruin your hands.’
There are a couple of other instances where the phrase ‘a bit’ is used rather awkwardly.

CC: ‘I seem to remember that I have said, at least twenty times, that I do not want a drying loft down here.’
BFI: ‘The dozens of times I’ve said I won’t have clothes drying in here!’

CC: ‘Can I not first give Frederik dry stockings so that he will not be cold?’
BFI: ‘Can’t the boy change his wet stockings first? He might catch cold.’

Here’s an interesting one: Ida offers a plate of three apples to Viktor:
CC: ‘We do not play favourites in this house, thank you. You can eat your apples yourself!’
BFI: ‘Three apples between five people!’
Each version seems to be missing something crucial that is provided by the alternative, but I don’t know which is more faithful to the original.

Ida, blaming herself for Viktor’s abusive behaviour:
CC: ‘I may not be the way I should be...but that must change’ (34.29)
BFI: ‘I expect I’m partly to blame, I must try to manage better.’

Mads, in response to Ida’s request that she not be too hard on Viktor:
CC: ‘HARD! Yes, but not evil!’ (38.35)
BFI: ‘Hard, perhaps, but not cruel.’

Mads again, berating Viktor for his rudeness:
CC: ‘Listen to you! At least to me, you shall have to learn to speak in a proper tone of voice!’
BFI: ‘It’s no use trying to show off with me, young man. I’ll ask you to be a little more polite.’
The first version sounds like it’s probably more accurate, but the second sounds far more like something Mads (or just any human being) would say.

Mads, justifying her hiring of the washerwoman:
CC: ‘You did not think that I was going to toil in a raw and cold washhouse?’
BFI: ‘Did you imagine I was going to slave at a washtub in a cold cellar?’
Only small changes here, but the second version flows much better, I think; and ‘raw’ is an awkward word-choice.

There are other examples where the Criterion version, for all its stiltedness, gives us important information that the BFI seems to leave out:
CC: ‘Father, there is no need for you to be ashamed of being fond of the birds. Canaries are people too – so Mother always said.’
BFI: ‘You do like the birds really, daddy, don’t you?’

And in one or two other instances, the BFI leaves an intertitle out entirely (perhaps they were working from a print with some titles missing). For instance, only the Criterion edition gives Viktor’s comment on the little boy wetting himself during lunch:
CC: ‘Why not? It all helps you work up an appetite!’
I still think this one needed a bit more work, but I’m glad it’s here as it captures Viktor’s passive-aggressive tone.

Finally, here is a sequence of three intertitles from different points in the film; they illustrate the difference between these two translations quite well. The mother-in-law brings food with her when she visits. Viktor complains to Ida:
CC: ‘I do not appreciate that your mother brings her own “foodstuffs.” If what she gets here is not good enough, she can stay away!’
BFI: ‘Your mother always brings food with her. If what we offer isn’t good enough, she should stay away!’

At the end of the film, she brings in some cakes:
CC: ‘I have brought something for the coffee.’
BFI: ‘Here are a few little titbits, Viktor.’
The phrase ‘for the coffee’ is awkward. Perhaps ‘to go with the coffee’?

Later, she teases him as she brings the cakes to the table:
CC: ‘It is just some... “foodstuffs”.’
BFI: ‘You’re not going to be rude about my titbits anymore, are you Viktor?’

It seems like the original intertitles make use of some pompous term equivalent to ‘foodstuffs’, and the Criterion edition is probably more faithful in this respect. But ‘foodstuffs’ just sounds odd. Perhaps there isn’t a suitable English equivalent to the Danish word in question. It seems to me that the BFI version gets the point across more elegantly, by introducing the word ‘titbits’ in the second intertitle so that we get the joke in the third one.

We could argue about this, but regardless of which version you prefer, I think this is a good example where having the Danish intertitles might help. I understand the rationale behind using a slightly awkward but literal translation, in order to be faithful to the ‘original’ text, but such a translation often seems less awkward in the form of a subtitle – if you can see the foreign-language text above it, you’re more aware that it is a translation, and can mentally adjust for any awkwardness by assuming that the original dialogue sounded more natural. More importantly, even though I don’t read Danish I could easily identify the word corresponding to ‘foodstuffs’ in the first and third intertitles, if the original text were provided. Then I could look it up, find out what the connotations of this word are in Danish, and gain a better understanding both of the original intertitle and the translators’ decision.

Bear in mind that although the original intertitles have been lost, the actual Danish text is apparently the same as the one Dreyer and his co-screenwriter intended to be used in 1925. That, at least, is what I take from Criterion's statement quoted on the previous page, although as Mr Sausage pointed out earlier, there is a lack of clarity about where the reconstruction comes from. Does the original script survive somewhere?* Anyway, in an ideal world, we would get a digital reconstruction of those original Danish titles (translation issues aside, these titles look really nice) with a good, idiomatic English translation beneath; alternatively, they might choose to give a slightly more stilted but accurate translation in the subtitles, to make it easier for those with a scholarly interest in the film to figure out what the original intent was; but if Criterion decide that, on balance, it is preferable to just provide translated intertitles, they need to take extra care to ensure that these titles flow well in English and capture the tone of the original text, rather than the literal sense. From the titles quoted above, I can sometimes get a vague sense of what that original text might have been, and can see that they’ve aimed for literal accuracy, but the result falls between two stools: I don’t actually know what Dreyer wrote, and I’m continually taken out of the drama of the film by intertitles (and there are, as Lemmy pointed out, far too many of them as it is!) that make me flinch. This would still have been a problem if these titles were subtitles, but then at least I could check the Danish or, after a few viewings, switch the damn things off.

I realise this may all come off as deeply pedantic to some people. How do others feel about these translations?

*EDIT: Just re-quoting the booklet, which Ryan Gallagher quoted on p.1: "When Master of the House was originally released, Palladium distributed two versions: one with Danish intertitles and the other with English ones. For this edition, Criterion returned to the original Danish version to create a new set of English intertitles. The translation was done by Signe Juul Hansen and Ina Bjerre Larsen."

But the statement from Criterion, quoted on p. 2, says they 'worked with' Tybjerg and Hansen on this translation. Anyway, the booklet seems to fudge matters slightly, but does suggest that the actual text on which these titles were based (if not the intertitles themselves) is the 'original' version.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#68 Post by swo17 » Wed Dec 24, 2014 11:49 am

Very interesting research, and the best argument I've seen for maintaining the Danish intertitles.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#69 Post by Lemmy Caution » Wed Dec 24, 2014 2:34 pm

Yes, some of the CC translations were rather stilted.
Seems like an argument for good translations ...
Here’s an interesting one: Ida offers a plate of three apples to Viktor:
CC: ‘We do not play favourites in this house, thank you. You can eat your apples yourself!’
BFI: ‘Three apples between five people!’
Each version seems to be missing something crucial that is provided by the alternative, but I don’t know which is more faithful to the original.
That one perplexed me.
I thought it had something to do with the fact that roasted apples were said to be Viktor's favorite -- which is why Ida made them -- so I thought for some reason he was shunning his favorite food. Or disclaiming them, or something. Maybe he realized that roasted apples were kinda weird after all (I'm joking, but I don't think I've heard to that before), The BFI version makes it clear what he's grousing about.
Bordwell in his visual essay says that Ida is roasting potatoes, as I guess the idea of roasting apples sounded odd to him too.

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706 Master of the House

#70 Post by TMDaines » Wed Dec 24, 2014 2:50 pm

Thanks for the detailed work, Sloper. Having done a quick comparison, the BFI intertitles match up with the Palladium version on Youtube, which we assume are the Dreyer-approved originals from Palladium's English-version restoration. Sloper's comparison truly underlines the fact Criterion's intertitles are truly a fresh translation of the Danish originals - as they themselves state. They aren't just cosmetic changes, name changes and a different equation.

As for critiquing Criterion's new translation, it's not something I feel one can do without having access to the source text. The stilted nature could well be in the original Danish version, although having (what are presumably) non-native English speakers doing a translation into English is never ideal and could well have contributed to it. There's a reason why most people translate into their mother tongue and most demand it.

I fully concur with Sloper's thoughts on the ideal presentation of this film and on intertitles in general.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#71 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Dec 24, 2014 4:32 pm

TMDaines wrote:Thanks for the detailed work, Sloper. Having done a quick comparison, the BFI intertitles match up with the Palladium version on Youtube, which we assume are the Dreyer-approved originals from Palladium's English-version restoration. Sloper's comparison truly underlines the fact Criterion's intertitles are truly a fresh translation of the Danish originals - as they themselves state. They aren't just cosmetic changes, name changes and a different equation.
Are you saying that the BFI's intertitles are the same intertitles as the original English release? I ask because Sloper's quotes above show that the BFI uses the original names, Frederik and Karen, rather than the John and Mary of the original English version.

When I mentioned certain changes being cosmetic ones, I was talking about the original English version, not Criterion's new translation. Which raises an important issue: how much do the original English intertitles differ in meaning from both the Danish intertitles and Criterion's translation? I think it's worth an in-depth essay comparing the changes of meaning between the three versions (or lack thereof, as the case may be).

Sloper's post reminds me of the big debate that ensued sixty years ago following Nabokov's literal translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, where Nabokov and others maintained that strict fidelity to the language was paramount and that concessions to readability at the sake of meaning were abhorrent, whereas others (chiefly Edmund Wilson) maintained that sacrificing some meaning in order to better approximate the feel of the original language (eg. speed, fluidity, rhythm, rhyme) gave a better impression of the original work.

Personally I don't know where I fall on this issue in general, except to say that some of the bits Sloper quotes seem needlessly stilted unless you assume the translators were trying to maintain strict fidelity even of word order and sentence structure so as to create the impression, in English, of something that isn't very English. That may've been part of Criterion's compromise: abandon the Danish intertitles, but make sure to replace them with intertitles that don't sound too idiomatic, that retain a feeling of foreignness. Would be interesting to know the methodology behind the translation. Why do DVD releases rarely ever come with translator's notes?

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706 Master of the House

#72 Post by TMDaines » Wed Dec 24, 2014 4:58 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:Are you saying that the BFI's intertitles are the same intertitles as the original English release? I ask because Sloper's quotes above show that the BFI uses the original names, Frederik and Karen, rather than the John and Mary of the original English version.
Thanks for the catching that, Sausage. It seems I was a bit eager and spoke too soon. I should have checked more throughly. The BFI and Palladium ones are different in fact, even though they have the same text in places. So now we have three sets of English intertitles.

The Palladium ones (as seen here) here use the John and Mary of the original version and have all the inserts in English. Based on Criterion's information, I interpret this to be Palladium's restoration of the Dreyer-approved English version.

I note Criterion use the word "version". I wonder if both original language versions have slightly different cuts too?

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#73 Post by Sloper » Mon Dec 29, 2014 9:16 am

TMDaines wrote:As for critiquing Criterion's new translation, it's not something I feel one can do without having access to the source text. The stilted nature could well be in the original Danish version, although having (what are presumably) non-native English speakers doing a translation into English is never ideal and could well have contributed to it. There's a reason why most people translate into their mother tongue and most demand it.
I agree it's not possible to critique the accuracy of the translations without reference to the source text. And yes, as Sausage mentions as well,the stiltedness may be deliberately carried over from the original, although one of the problems I have with these translations is that they seem so disconnected from what we see in the film itself: they just don't sound like what the characters appear to be saying. It's a bit like in Battleship Potemkin, when the mother carries her mangled son up the Odessa steps, screaming defiance at the advancing soldiers, and the intertitle (in some editions) just says, 'My boy is very poorly'.

There's a discussion to be had, I suppose, about the acting style in Master of the House, and whether it accords with the style these translators have gone for. In Ordet or Gertrud, for instance, it seems to me that it's less jarring to see rather stilted, artificial translations in the subtitles. But to a great extent these are probably matters of personal taste.

With regard to Sausage's comments about Nabokov and Wilson, on the whole I actually quite like deliberately stilted or 'alien' translations; Richmond Lattimore's translations of Homer ('And put away in your heart this other thing that I tell you', 'And it will be a thing accomplished', etc.) spring to mind. But this takes immense skill and confidence to pull off - the translator really needs to have an expert command of both languages.

The one thing I really wanted to emphasise here is that intertitles are not (or at least not always) simply functional. They may not have immense literary merit either, but getting the style and tone just right is crucial to making the film work.
Mr Sausage wrote:Would be interesting to know the methodology behind the translation. Why do DVD releases rarely ever come with translator's notes?
Exactly! This is standard practice in translations of literary works, where the 'Translator's Note' at the start is sometimes almost essential reading. Criterion did include such notes from the two translators in their edition of Throne of Blood, but much of the time the assumption seems to be that no one will be interested. Same goes for the music scores on silent film releases - it would be great to have a short essay by the composer (or compiler, in this case) offering their thoughts on the film and the various choices they made, or the choices made by whoever originally compiled the music cues. In this case, we do at least get a list of those cues in the booklet, which is more than most releases provide (the Image edition of The Parson's Widow, scored by Neal Kurz, does this too).

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#74 Post by whaleallright » Mon Dec 29, 2014 5:29 pm

Sloper, thank you so much for the detailed analysis and comparison! I agree that the Criterion English titles are unidiomatic and awkward.

I too wish that DVD notes were more forthcoming about a number of things -- translations, music, provenance of a print, restoration, etc. -- in the manner of a scholarly edition. The extensive notes to the first few volumes of the Treasures from American Film Archives, particularly Martin Marks's comments on the scores, are exemplary in that respect. But that kind of thing can add a ton of work to a project, work that a commercial enterprise like Criterion might be loathe to take on. But I can only see a simple "translators' note" as adding value.

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Re: 706 Master of the House

#75 Post by martin » Thu Jan 15, 2015 8:09 am

I don't think the actual text from the Palladium booklet about the restoration was ever quoted in this thread? It actually differs from Mulvaney's quote on the previous page. The text is written by Ulla Hansen, executive of Palladium A/S and in charge of Palladium's four Dreyer restorations (forgive my own hasty and rather poor translation):
Initially we thought the film only existed with English intertitles. Fortunately we found three reels with Danish intertitles. Based on these Danish intertitles and the original dialogue sheets we succeeded in creating a Danish version which I'm particularly proud of since this had been lost since 1928.
Sloper wrote:Here’s an interesting one: Ida offers a plate of three apples to Viktor:
CC: ‘We do not play favourites in this house, thank you. You can eat your apples yourself!’
BFI: ‘Three apples between five people!’
Each version seems to be missing something crucial that is provided by the alternative, but I don’t know which is more faithful to the original.
The Criterion quote is almost a word-for-word translation of the Danish text:

Image

A literal translation maintaining the Danish syntax would be something like: "Thank you, we don't make differences in this house. You can eat your apples yourself!" Make difference is the Danish way of saying discriminate. The intended meaning is that everyone is (or should be) equal in this house, which is pretty ironic considering it's being said by Viktor!

Finally a few words about any supposed stiltedness: We have to consider that the Danish language has undergone massive changes over the last 100 years because it's a relatively small language compared to surrounding languages like English, German, or French. Furthermore, the official approach of preserving the Danish language has always been pretty relaxed. The official stance has been that a language isn't static but something alive, dynamic, always changing. The use of a language isn't determined by fixed rules but by the way the users choose to use it! Therefore, there have been some radical changes since the release of "Master of the House". Orthographically, the use of capital letters for nouns was abandoned in 1948. Also, the use of aa was replaced by the letter å in 1948 (aa or å is a particular Danish vowel). Also some spelling has been changed - particularly replacing or removing silent letters (the spelling of Danish words like kunde or skulde was changed into kunne or skulle). And sometimes irregular verbs have been changed into regular verbs.

Palladium's Danish intertitles are faithful to a Danish 1925 orthography, using capital leters for nouns (like in German) etc. But although the orthography may seem old-fashioned to a modern Dane, the language itself is anything but! I don't think the Danish text is supposed to be stilted or archaic at all. In fact, it seems as ordinary and everyday-like as I can imagine for a text written in 1925! There's even use of shortened words with apostrophe typical for spoken language (or rather, for representing spoken language in writing) like English phrases such as "I love 'em" or "makin' love".

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