Friday, June 16, 2017

Master of the House

Based on the play Tyrannens fald by Svend Rindom, Master of the House is the story of a housewife who teams up with her maid on a revenge scheme towards her tyrannical husband who has made their life a living hell. Directed, edited, and art direction by Carl Theodor Dreyer and screenplay by Dreyer and Rindom, the film is a revenge film of sorts set in the domestic world where two women conspire to save their family from their bullish patriarch and teach him a lesson. Starring Johannes Meyer, Astrid Holm, Karin Nellemose, Clara Schonfeld, Mathilde Nielsen, Johannes Nielsen, Petrine Sonne, and Aage Hoffman. Master of the House is a riveting and witty film from Carl Theodor Dreyer.

The film follows a businessman who has lost his business as his frustrations would have him lash out at his wife and family as well as his former nanny who frequently visits as she and the wife conspire to get revenge on the man. It’s a film with a simple premise as it explores the idea of who controls the house as a man is wreaking havoc on his family as he tries to maintain his rule while being very cruel to his wife, three children, old nanny, and his mother-in-law who would also make a few visits. The film’s screenplay by Carl Theodor Dreyer and Svend Rindom has a unique structure that begins with the way Ida Frandsen (Astrid Holm) runs her household in doing all of the things a housewife does as she’s aided by her eldest daughter Karen (Karin Nellemose) who would help watch over her younger brother Frederick (Aage Hoffman) and the family baby. Yet, they are mistreated with some indifference by the patriarch Viktor (Johannes Meyer) who was a successful watchmaker until he lost everything as he just complains about everything around him and terrorizes everyone.

When his old nanny Mads (Mathilde Nielsen) would make her visits to help around the house, things would become more chaotic to the point that Ida’s mother Alvilda (Clara Schonfeld) decides to take Ida to her home away from Viktor who has become abusive. This would prompt Mads to do something big in the film’s second half as it relates to everything Viktor has done to Ida and the family where he would get some revelations about what his wife does while he’s often away at the bar or trying to find work. It does become a different film of sorts in terms of who is the master of the house as the script would become this kind of feminist film of sorts as Mads would have to go back to old tactics in the way she dealt with Viktor as a child.

Dreyer’s direction is definitely simple in its approach to the visuals as the camera throughout the film rarely moves except in scenes outside of the house or a camera tilt inside of the home. Much of the compositions has Dreyer use medium shots for much of the film to play into the sense of theatricality that is prevalent throughout the drama. Especially as he doesn’t go for any kind of close-ups as there are a few wide shots for scenes outside of the house but that is pretty much it as Dreyer is more about the way the household is run and what happens when Ida is out of the picture in running the household. Also serving as the film’s art director and editor, Dreyer’s approach to the sets would help create something that is intimate for the camera to capture as much coverage in its compositions without the need to move it in case a character goes from one room to another. Instead, he would cut to that person in the other room as his approach as an editor his also very straightforward. Even in his idea of humor which is very subtle as it showcases the humility that Viktor has to endure all because of his selfishness towards the people in his live. Overall, Dreyer creates a compelling and evocative film about a family patriarch getting his comeuppance from his wife and former nanny.

Cinematographer George Schneevoigt does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it features some unique shades of lighting for some of the interiors as well as going for something natural in the few exterior scenes in the film. The film’s reconstructed score by Gillian B. Anderson that is performed by pianist Sara Davis Buechner from its 2010 reissue is superb for its piano-based score that play into the style that was reminiscent of the music made during the silent film era with its array of moods and pieces that is played continuously.

The film’s amazing cast as it include some notable small roles from Petrine Sonne as a washer woman from the film’s second half, Johannes Nielsen as a doctor who would look over Ida, Aage Hoffman as Ida and Viktor’s son Frederik, and Clara Schonfeld as Ida’s mother Alvilda who is trying to help her daughter and the family as she would help Mads in her plan. Karin Nellemose is fantastic as Karen as Ida and Viktor’s daughter who tries to help her mother every way she can but also pities her father once she sees him try to adjust without his wife. Mathilde Nielsen is incredible as Mads as Viktor’s former nanny whose frequent visits to help the family has her seeing what Viktor has become where she decides to make him pay.

Astrid Holm is brilliant as Ida as a housewife who is mistreated, neglected, and overworked as someone that does love her husband but couldn’t take the abuse anymore as she goes along with Mads’ plan. Finally, there’s Johannes Meyer in a marvelous performance as Viktor Frandsen as an unemployed watchmaker who unravels in his lack of progress as he starts to vent his anger at his family including his wife where he would later endure a lesson in humility that would make him realize the abuse he has done to his wife and family.

Master of the House is an incredible film from Carl Theodor Dreyer. Featuring a great cast, a captivating story with proto-feminist ideas, gorgeous visuals, and amazing sets. It’s a silent film that is quite intriguing in its depiction of household life as well as the importance of a woman’s role in that household. In the end, Master of the House is a phenomenal film from Carl Theodor Dreyer.

Carl Theodor Dreyer Films: (The President) - (The Parson’s Widow) - Leaves from Satan's Book - (Once Upon a Time (1922 film)) - (Love One Another) - (Michael (1924 film)) - (Bride of Glomdal) – The Passion of Joan of Arc - Vampyr - Day of Wrath - (Two People) – Ordet - Gertrud

© thevoid99 2017


Anonymous said...

Your diverse taste in cinema is what makes your blog so cool. You rock.

thevoid99 said...

Of course I rock. I do the films that not many people would see and expose it to the world. This is a public service I'm doing for all of us who love film.

Anonymous said...

This is such a stellar cast.