Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Movies Every Day 2: Master of the House (1925)

"And yet again the heart of the pendulum struck and proclaimed the commandment: THOU SHALT HONOR THY WIFE! For her strong hands keep the whole world together. SHE is the Heart of the Home."

Why I'm Watching

  • Directed by Carl Theodor Dryer, who also directed two other movies I've seen: Vampyr and The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • It's interesting to see portrayals of domestic life from so long ago.

The Gist

Viktor is a real tyrant. His wife and kids work tirelessly to please him, but all he can do is complain...when he is not beating and berating them. His former nanny and his mother-in-law conspire to help Viktor learn to appreciate his wife and develop a sense of gratitude.


  • Not much different from some families in present day.
  • It has the voyeuristic qualities of reality TV.
  • When Viktor is having to change a diaper, it reminds me a bit of Mr. Mom
  • Close up of faces recall The Passion of Joan of Arc.


  • Ida scrapes the butter off her bread so Viktor can have more after complaining about how little he got. 
  • The children get along and help their mother with the chores without complaint.
  • Ida is very concerned about daughter Karen's hands.
  • Mads hears Viktor chastising son Frederik outside and refers to him as a "howler monkey."
  • Viktor throws Frederik to the ground, accusing him of not earning his keep, causing the baby to cry, then tells Ida, "Make that brat stop howling!"
  • Viktor blows smoke in the birds' cage. First child abuse, now animal cruelty.
  • He's roughs up the old woman, giving her a bloody nose. 
  • The family diet consists of lumpy porridge, buttered bread, deli meat and cheese. No wonder folks only lived to their 60s during this time period.
  • I didn't expect to see Viktor soften after Karen tells him it will be his fault if her mother dies. 


  • Does this family have access to vegetables? Can they not afford them? Or is this just a typical Danish diet back then?
  • Ida says that Viktor lost his business, but is he working now? 
  • Are the birds in cages symbolic of the trapped housewife? If so, what does the struggle over the bird cage between Mads and Viktor represent? 


  • Shots alternate between close ups of faces and long shots of characters in the rooms of the house.
  • Aperture is open wide when showing a character's surroundings and narrowed when focusing on interactions between characters or emotions of a single character.
  • When Ida sneaks back into the house to observe the change in Viktor, she hides in the closet and peeks out of bars on the window, making her appear to be caged.  
  • The heart pendulum on the clock stopped while Ida was away. She restarts it when she returns.

Notable Quotes

Intertitle: Every morning, the tens of thousands of homes of the City awaken, and every home is a world of its own – with its fights, its joys and sorrows, its hopes...and its heroes! Yes, 'heroes' is just the word for the patient wife of the home, the brave mother of the home – she who, behind her loving smile, hides her fatigue, her sorrows, her worries...

Mads (to Viktor): Many years ago, I gave you such a spanking that I could feel it myself a long time afterwards... My, did that feel good... For the spanking you deserve today, I do not have enough strength, but, thank God, I can still give you a box on the ear!"

Mads (to Viktor): Well, a bloody nose you gave me good and proper...  but you just wait and see, my dear. You will be put in the corner yourself, trust me!

Mads (to her mom): You all say that Viktor is evil... but that is not true! Since Viktor lost his business, he has had to fight adversity and impoverishment... and it has made him bitter and hard... I have shared the good years with Viktor.. and I would feel like a traitor if I let him down now when he neds me the most!

Viktor (to Mads): So now I am supposed to have abused my poor wife... and as punishment I am to come home and find the living room empty – and in despair rush to Mother-in-law, where they are both laughing at me...... but she will be the one to beg forgiveness of me!

Mads (to Karen): Yes, my lamb, it hurts to thrash someone you love – but now we must persist for your mother's sake... right until he whimpers!

Intertitle: Sooner or later, the misdeeds of tyrants always turn against them... Also, our "Hero," who recently held the whip, learned how to bend down.

Viktor: How foolish we men are! We believe that we carry the load since we make the money... but it is really SHE who carries everything... and is rewarded with her husband's brutish behavior!

Mads (to Viktor): You men are all alike... foolish... stubborn... vain... conceited... You have a strange way of treating your wives. To begin with, it is all hearts and flowers... she is your "princess" and only God knows what... Later on, when she really deserves your admiration, you treat her as your maidservant...until someday, another man turns up and you feel that your vanity has been offended – then, suddenly, she is of value to you again!

Memorable Moments

It wouldn't be a Danish home without an Ebleskiver pan.

Love It or Leave It

Love it. It's interesting to see such an early portrayal of women schooling a man on how difficult it is doing the work of a housewife. The scenes set in the home give the sense of being a fly on the wall, observing the family's turmoil. The reconciliation of husband and wife, along with the family gathered together at the dinner table, makes for a pleasant ending.

Similarities, Surprises, Puzzles and Patterns is adapted from the Grid Analysis Technique developed by the British Film Institute from Aidan Chambers 'Tell Me' Questions.

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