Master of the House Screen 10 articles

Master of the House

1925

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  • The film takes place almost entirely within a modest, middle-class apartment, with each room thoroughly detailed and configured logically with clear continuity editing. So patiently does the director lay out the apartment and its mise-en-scène that subtle fluctuations in the placement of slippers or a clothesline later in the movie not only communicate changing order, but shifting psychological states for the unit's residents.

  • There are elements of comedy, particularly in the performances of Johannes Meyer as the grouchy autocrat and Mathilde Nielsen as the crafty old nanny who engineers his re-education, but the movie is notable for the pared-down elegance of its construction, the sparseness of its intertitles, the eloquence of its close-ups and the naturalistic claustrophobia of its setting.

  • Formally and politically decades ahead of its time... Restricted mainly to interiors, Dreyer's masterful mise en scene works wonders with the domestic space, and his script and dialogue make the most of his feminist theme.

  • Master of the House is a spare, compassionate, and astute social satire on domesticity, gender roles, and subservience. Using parallel imagery that further reflects a distinctive aspect of Dreyer's art, the film underscores the characters' profound transformation towards empathy, self-reliance, and equality...

  • If [John] is a monster, he is a monster made; Dreyer’s small-scale comedy, with its meticulous depiction of the thousand little chores of domestic order and occasional flashes of visual brilliance and startling symbolism, is nothing less than a child’s muted cry of rage against the eternal elders.

  • If Dreyer is the ultimate master of this house, as he angles our eyes on its every cranny, he does his best to build a space where optimism may brim.

  • Master of the House may have been designed to fit in with Palladium’s production system, being a domestic yarn that barely strays outside a single family home, but in terms of tone, Dreyer has subverted the form – there aren’t many laughs to be had in his film, but it’s an acutely observed, passionately felt proto-feminist fable, that puts family life under the microscope.

  • Dreyer made over a dozen features... half of which receive very little attention at all, in spite of their experimentation sophistication, which often found the director at the forefront of formal innovation. Master of the House is one of these such films, that while it may not be as overtly stylistic as Joan of Arc, nor as masterfully constructed or affecting as his later films, demonstrates a robust and strategically deployed array of visual strategies and narrative finesse.

  • [Master of the House has] Dreyer’s extraordinarily limpid psychological realism, something that was altogether new, modern, and distinctive in cinema at a time when most films still inscribed themselves within the conventions of melodrama.

  • The film is an exceptionally fluid, assured one, and it prepares for more daring Dreyer experiments to come: the fragmented interior spaces of La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, the creeping camera of Vampyr, and the intensely theatricalized late films Day of Wrath, Ordet, and Gertrud. Little-known at the time, The Master of the House has come to be regarded as one of the most quietly perfect of silent films.

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