A Not So Doll-Like House

         Jospeh Losey's 1973 film version of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, written in 1879, is the type of film that does not exactly conform to, or completely depart from, the original text. This film is in the middle of the sliding scale between a close and loose adaptation. The reasons I think it is similar to the original text are that the basic storyline is mostly faithful to the original work and the characters' attitudes and personalities are similar to the play. What differentiates the film from the play are the settings and the fact that it does not feel as though Nora is trapped in a doll's house.

         This film does a very good job of following the basic storyline of the book. Everything that happens in the play happens in some way during the film. All of the major events in the story also occur in the film. I likewise think the film does an excellent job of portraying the characters' personalities as they are presented in the book.

         In the play, Torvald is very stern and controlling, and David Warner does a good job of portraying this in the film. In relation to Ibsen's play, Nora's character is also very well portrayed by Jane Fonda. She is presented in the film as a woman who is very concerned about money. She is also very emotional. This is what I had imagined her to be when I read the play. Although these things were similar to the book, other adaptations of the play did not follow it as well.

         The overall feel of Nora's being trapped in a figurative doll's house is not portrayed as it is in the play. The film has Nora outside too much. This makes it seems as if she were out of the house a lot and not under Torvald control. There are also too many outside scenes that include big, open, snow-covered spaces. Another film version of the play, directed by Patrick Garland in 1973, does not do this, and it feels more as if Claire Bloom's Nora were trapped, as if she were Torvald's (Anthony Hopkins) doll. In the Losey film, Nora has too much freedom. She just comes and goes as she pleases and never really tells Torvald where she goes. If Torvald were to treat her like a doll, he would have more control. Another element of the film that is different than the play is the way the house is set up. The rooms are very open and bright. The ceilings are high. The rooms are well-lit. When I read the play, I imagine Nora feeling cramped. I imagine the house to be darker with Nora feeling confined.

         I think the Losey film does not capture this feeling at all, unlike the Garland film, which actually does this quite well. However, Losey's version does follow the basic storyline of the play rather well, but the director makes some choices that cause the film to stray from the plot. This is why I think this film is the best example of an intermediate adaptation.

Jamison Carner

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