Thesis: Can Freddie find a place he belongs?
Inciting Incident: Freddie meets Lancaster Dodd.
The Master asks whether Freddie can find a life in a post-war America. He tries to cling but eventually is pressed into the outskirts of society, where he finds himself homeless, and seeks refuge in a glowing bell of a ship. It belongs to Lancaster Dodd, who wants to help him find a way.
We can take the inciting incident in two points. Some could say that it’s when Freddie is relieved from his duty overseas, where he’s forced into integration. But without Dodd the catalyst for Freddie’s change is gone.
Threshold: Freddie agrees to ‘processing.’
Dodd never met a man like Freddie, a true scoundrel, a man with no master. He needs to know how Freddie works. Freddie agrees to it as just a game, until he’s confronted with his past.
This is the first time we see Freddie attempt to figure out what’s wrong with him. The entire film he’s been circling around the question, until he’s pushed into his past regrets, reliving it through. Specifically; his lost love, Doris.
Midpoint: Freddie subjects himself to intense processing to become a part of The Cause.
By this point in the film, Freddie and Dodd have developed a staggered union, with Dodd holding the higher post. When Dodd returns from jail, all Freddie wants to do is envelop himself with the ideology of The Cause, and Dodd agrees.
It’s a false victory. The protagonist finds himself wanting to change for the better but is constrained by Dodd’s understanding of what needs to be fixed; animal urges or boils in the past. We see Freddie pressed against his ability to indulge in these mental challenges, because they won’t save him.
Low Point: Freddie sees The Cause as a sham, and leaves Dodd.
On a motorcycle run through dry flat land, Dodd and his family watch as Freddie drives off without them, with no intention of return. He’s confronted by Dodd’s inability to keep the narrative straight, or give any answers that hold any true meaning.
What solidifies leaving as a low point for me, is that it mirrors the first act so clearly. Freddie alone and driving towards the fringe of society, where there isn’t a thing left for him. But that’s not what happens.
Climax: Freddie meets with Lancaster Dodd, and realizes he doesn’t need him.
There are a few things settled in the third act, both I would say of equal importance.
Freddie meets with Doris’s mother and hears that his former love has already been married. He leaves Dodd in the hopes of finding reconciliation with the past, and when he doesn’t find it – he survives. He finds happiness in her new name being Doris Day. In the fact that she’s happy.
The second point dives further. Freddie still finds unease with his place with the world; tells Dodd that he can even just take pictures for the cause. He just wants a purpose. But Dodd finally lets Freddie go. He reminds Freddie of that being inside him that wants freedom. That when Freddie finds how to truly live with no master -
“You would be the first person in the history of the world.”
Dodd sings to Freddie, a parting song.
Resolution: Freddie begins his new life.
The Master handles the resolution in a playful way. We see Freddie midday at a bar as he spots a woman that looks his way. After they have sex, Freddie recites a few lines of processing.
“Starting now, say your name.”
“Have you lived before?”
“Maybe this isn’t your only life.”
But the words don’t have any bite. It’s just something to say, drunk in the middle of the day, to a stranger who’ll laugh too. And we see Freddie as a free man.