Thursday, August 28, 2014

#706: Master of the House

(Carl Th. Dreyer, 1925)

It's not that I didn't like Master of the House, an engaging and gentle little movie that shows off Dreyer's early skill with the camera. It's just that all of the talk about its revolutionary and progressive stance on gender roles is largely unfounded. Within the context of 1925's political discourse, a movie that highlights a woman's work and the need to value them in their role is certainly admirable. But a better attitude from men is not the goal of feminism - it's simply the barest necessity of entry into the human race. Master of the House does nothing to strike against the larger injustices of the patriarchal society, it simply uses them to tell a light and harmless but ultimately traditional story about a man taking his wife for granted.

There's a certain condescension directed at the past, where racism and sexism are graded on a curve. Anything that appears remotely empathetic toward people who aren't white men is declared revolutionary, while the notion that social justice or progressive thinking could have existed before the 1960s is supposed to be a revelation on par with the discovery of complex tools in the caveman era. The truth is that Master of the House is mainstream entertainment designed to play with the already widely held beliefs of the general public, and only the stodgiest traditionalist would have complained about it.

Moving beyond this complaint - which is generated through no fault of the film itself - Master of the House is an enjoyable film. Though it is certainly minor when compared to Dreyer's later work, his technical skill is clear, and I like seeing more silent films in the Collection, regardless of how "revolutionary" they are.

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