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Master of the House (1925)

Du skal ære din hustru (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 5 October 1925 (Denmark)
When a man becomes tyrannical towards his family, the women of the house decide to teach him a lesson in gratitude.
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Johannes Meyer Johannes Meyer ... Viktor Frandsen - Finmekaniker
Astrid Holm ... Ida - Hans Hystru
Karin Nellemose ... Karen - Deres Datter
Mathilde Nielsen Mathilde Nielsen ... Mads - Frandsens tidligere barnepige
Petrine Sonne Petrine Sonne ... Vaskekone
Clara Schønfeld Clara Schønfeld ... Fra Kryger - Idas Mor
Johannes Nielsen Johannes Nielsen ... Læge
Aage Hoffman Aage Hoffman ... Dreng
Viggo Lindstrøm Viggo Lindstrøm
Vilhelm Petersen Vilhelm Petersen
Byril Harvig Byril Harvig ... Barnet
Aage Schmidt Aage Schmidt
Frk. Voss-Christensen Frk. Voss-Christensen ... Pige Gos Læen
Georg Busch Georg Busch
Frank Henriksen Frank Henriksen
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Storyline

Victor Frandsen is a domestic tyrant. His wife Ida has to work as a slave for him and the rest of the family. She rises early to prepare everything for the day, she toils all day long, and she is often up also in the night, doing some sewing to earn extra money for the household. In daytime she is supported by an old woman called Mads, who was Victors' nanny when he was a child. Mads is filled with loathing for Victor's behavior towards his wife, and calls him a brute. She understands that Ida is on the verge of a serious breakdown, and persuades Ida's mother, Mrs. Kryer, to take Ida away. Mads will herself take care of the household and the children for a time. When Victor comes home and finds out that Ida is gone, he gets angry. He asks his daughter, Karen, where her mother is, but she refuses to tell him. She only says that her mother is very ill, and that it will be his fault if she dies. The accusation strikes Victor in his heart, and he sits down, feeling dejected. Karen ... Written by Maths Jesperson {maths.jesperson1@comhem.se}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Denmark

Language:

Danish

Release Date:

5 October 1925 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

Master of the House See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Palladium Film See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

|

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

At the time of its original release in Paris, France, this film played in 57 theaters in three weeks. See more »

Quotes

Mads, Frandsens tidligere barnepige: Well, there is the howler monkey!
See more »

Alternate Versions

A 107-minute version with English intertitles and an uncredited piano score was shown on the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) channel in 2006. It had no crew credits other than the director (as Carl Dreyer) and only three cast members: Johannes Meyer (as Johs Meyer), 'Astrid Holm' and Mathilde Nielsen. The English names used were John and Mary for the husband and wife, presumably to indicate a typical family, and "Nana" for the Wetnurse. The two older children were called Kathleen and Dick. See more »

Connections

Featured in Le pornographe (2001) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Dreyer the master
8 February 2012 | by sveinpaSee all my reviews

Du skal ære din hustru was restored last year by Palladium, the original company that released it in 1925. It was also released on DVD along with the likewise newly restored Vredens Dag, Ordet and Gertrud. These are actually the first ever releases on DVD by the Danes themselves of their most important films. It took some time but the result is splendid, at least as far as Du skal ære din hustru is concerned. The current version is free from scratches and dirt and comes with the original Danish intertitles. It runs for 107 minutes.

Having seen the other early Dreyer films (before Jeanne) both long ago on the screen and on DVD relatively recent, I must say that this remains for me without doubt the most interesting one. Indeed it is great! This is because its success is purely cinematographic: Although based on the popular 1919 play "The tyrant's fall", it strikes me how little it resembles a stage performance; how well the natural acting (not in any way overacted) is integrated in the two or three small rooms of the troubled family's apartment, not least how excellently the scenes are constructed, and especially the lightning, which is never too bright, yet bringing out every detail in the house. It is a joy to see this environment come alive; a cross between a petit bourgeois and an upper working class world, as well as to study the many objects appearing from another time: The carefully hung pictures on the walls, the always-burning oven (it is winter) with its place for the kettle, and all the small oddities from a hundred years ago (well, almost). Indeed Dreyer himself paid utmost importance to it; he constructed everything from scratch to look exactly like a Christianshavn apartment, and he made sure that the camera always was positioned around the characters like it was another ghostly member of the family. We are drawn into the surroundings in a way that a theatre stage never could manage, and the actors are shown in their best possible manner, where only a small wink or a troubled gaze is enough to indicate what goes on inside them and how they interact with one another. This is a huge step forward from the previous films by Dreyer, and indeed from most other films at the time.

As the plot is well cared for by other posters, I will not bother here with any details but must say that I find the relationship between husband and wife to be as realistic as could be hoped for in a 1925 movie: Viktor may be a tyrant but only a household tyrant (they can be bad enough). He is cross, not violent. And Ida may be the typical suffering and under-appreciated wife but she bares her lot with great dignity. She loves him and supports him because she understands that his loss of business gives him hard times; he can barely support his family, yet he must appear like a winner to the outside world. The children seem to understand this as well, particularly the sympathetic and obedient Karen but also her younger brother Frederik, who must nevertheless endure some humiliating punishment. They seem to know every possible little detail that Viktor craves, and they try not to makes things worse for him. That leaves the rebel of the house, Viktor's old nanny, who provides both comical relief and some clever revenge structures. They all tell so much by playing so little, it is as if the story could be told almost by their gestures alone, without the need of the abundance of intertitles which to me are only stating the obvious. We can see what's going on; every frame tells a story and every cut makes us notice how swiftly the action can change from the tense to the out of hand. Dreyer is really himself the master of the house as far as editing is concerned, often creating fast moving scenes by making movement continue from one shot to another in a masterful way that was not common at that time. Today it easy to overlook such important details and consequently loose much of what makes this film special.

When first released, the film was an outstanding success, both with the critics and with the audiences, both in Denmark and abroad, most notably in France, where Le Temps saw its simplicity and attention to small details as a great example to be followed by French directors. In 1925, that included at least Jean Renoir, whose first films were not free from stagey drama and overacting (Nana...). The official Carl Th. Dreyer website provides both this review and others, although you need to brush up your Danish to read them (Well if James Joyce could do it...): It seems that the Danish critics all agreed that this was the best Danish film yet. The site also provides the full manuscript with many scenes missing from the current print. I think I remember seeing a beautiful scene where Karen, full of sisterly love, washes the nude Frederik, who is standing in a basin in the kitchen, but it is now missing. It is, however, shown on a still photo that is both on the DVD and on the Dreyer-site. Was it censored? Or is it just my dirty imagination? There are also some hilarious fantasy scenes in the manuscript, including one where Viktor is horsewhipping the entire family who are pulling him around on a wagon, that were either not filmed or cut somewhere along the way.

Anyway, the film as we have it in the current print remains one of the most moving of its era, as good as the similar ones by Murnau and Pabst from around the same time (say Tartuffe and Geheimnisse einer Seele), and that for me is as good as domestic cinema ever got in the twenties.


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