For Reel

Master of the House (1925)
October 25, 2015, 11:46 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
3.5 Stars
Master of the HouseCarl Theodor Dreyer’s best-known works are characterized by the audacity of their mise en scène (The Passion of Joan of Arc’s close-ups) or their expressionistic focus on creating uncanny atmospheres (Vampyr). Master of the House, then, seems like a radical step behind his later works at a first glance, but it is nonetheless as precise and true to its world as Dreyer’s later films. If the spaces in The Passion of Joan of Arc were distorted and almost purgatorial, Master of the House deliberately creates what a common viewer would associate as a “typical” household. Playing out largely in medium or long shots, the entirety of the house that the bulk of the film takes place in is laid out with incredible precision–one gets a sense of what it would be like to occupy the space, and more significantly the objects that appear in it. Dreyer’s play with objects enhances the realism. The movement of slippers is the physical manifestation of a power play, reflecting the small battles that occur in a typical household. Where the film is of particular interest is in its progressive stance regarding gender, and specifically the destruction of the very makeup of a working class household. The comedy is a bit hard to stomach–regardless of what a wretch Viktor (Johannes Meyer) proves to be, the prolonged humbling he endures begins to feel too obsessively vengeful. Regardless, the film nicely deals with grand drama on a micro scale, and Dreyer’s investment in accuracy creates an uncommonly convincing depiction of a household.

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