This film adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen play by the same name has only had a teensy theatrical release, despite a serious list of heavy-hitters involved. This version started as a play translated by Wallace Shawn and produced by André Gregory, creative partners best known for the film My Dinner With André. Director Jonathan Demme has taken the play, which the New York Times said Gregory spent 14 years developing, and put it onto film, with Shawn playing the title character–a dying starchitect. Architectural Record characterizes him this way:
The Master Builder, once designed grand churches with impossible towers; now, after personal tragedy and wracked with existential guilt, he’s focused on “homes for people to live in.” A good elevator pitch, but one that ignores his rampaging ego and reptilian machinations that ruined his mentor, Brovik; holds down Brovik’s son, Ragnar; toys with Ragnar’s fiancé (and Solness’ bookkeeper), Kaia; and keeps his wife, Aline, in an emotional prison. Only when the young, mysterious (and possibly divine) Hilde appears at the Solness home does Halvard discover something akin to empathy and humanity.
Ah, yes. The old genius transformed by youth and beauty. A trope in Ibsen’s time and certainly one now.
Reviews have been mixed, but the film will be released by Criterion, which is an enormous honor for any filmmaker. Trailer below.