David Bordwell on Master of the House

Film scholar extraordinaire David Bordwell is among our most meticulous writers on the art of cinema, looking closely at the construction of a film to see what makes it work and how its technical approach reflects its historical moment. We naturally turned to Bordwell for an analysis of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s early silent comedy Master of the House, which seems somewhat anomalous in Dreyer’s body of work, known for its formal austerity. In the following excerpt from the visual essay he contributed to our release, Bordwell discusses the film’s focus on the textures of everyday life, its startling number of cuts (there are more shots in Master of the House than any other Danish film of the period, he says), and its relationship to the German Kammerspielfilm of the time, anti-spectacles about ordinary people.

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