Capturing the Essence of A Dollís House

†††††††† Patrick Garland's 1973 cinematic adaptation Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House (1879) best reflects its literary source. Ibsen's play deals with a very controversial issue--the role of women in the late 1800s. Garland's main cast consists of Torvald Helmer (Anthony Hopkins), Nora Helmer (Claire Bloom), Dr. Rank (Ralph Richardson), Mrs. Linde (Anna Massey), and Nils Krogstad (Denholm Elliott), and the scandalous story takes place in Norway.

†††††††† First of all, Garland's setting does the play's setting justice. During the first act the scenes take place in the Helmer household. The room in the film is almost exactly as Ibsen describes. The room is not extravagantly decorated, and most of the furniture placing matches Ibsen's detailed set description.

†††††††† Secondly, Anthony Hopkins is wonderful as Torvald Helmer. Helmer is quite the serious businessman, a bank manager making his way through the ranks of a business world. Torvald treats his wife as through she is just a mere plaything, a doll. Hopkins does an excellent job of showing this side of Torvald's personality. Hopkins calls Nora many pet names such as "little skylark," "my little squirrel," and "my little lark." Hopkins shows that Torvald loves his wife, but think of her and treats her as more of an irresponsible child than a responsible adult wife.

†††††††† Nora is a very smart and independent women, which in the late 1800s was often unheard of. Women were supposed to be dependent on men, not themselves. However, around her husband, Nora acts as if she were a ditzy wife without a care in the world except for shopping, taking care of herself, playing with the children, and keeping her husband happy. Claire Bloom does a good job of portraying Nora's "innocent" side, as well as her more serious businesslike side. Since Nora's character keeps a secret from her--she had borrowed money to help save her husband when he fell ill. In the late 1800s, married women were not supposed to handle finances, let alone keep secrets of this sort from their husbands. Bloom's portrayal of Nora does the character's actions and personality justice.

†††††††† Next, Dr. Rank is well-portrayed by Ralph Richardson in Garland's adaptation, though not as well as Hopkins or Bloom. Dr. Rank is an older gentleman who is very close friends with the Helmer family. Richardson does a good job portraying his character, except in some instances he is a little too dramatic. I gathered from Ibsen's portrayal of Dr. Rank that the character is not as emotional as he is depicted in Garland's film, although overall Dr. Rank is well-represented in the film. Another character that is somewhat misinterpreted in the film adaptation is Mrs. Kristine Linde. Anna Massey does a consistent job of portraying Linde's character, as described in the literary work, with the exception of Linde's first scene. When Mrs. Linde first enters the Helmer home in the play, Ibsen describes her as having a warmer personality towards Nora than Massey portrays in the film. Garland's Mrs. Linde is very cold towards Nora in her opening scene. I felt as though if I had just seen the film and not read the play first, I would have not had a clue that Mrs. Linde and Nora had been best friends with the exception of Nora's disposition towards Linde.

†††††††† Yet another character that is well-portrayed in Garland's film is Nils Krogstad. From Ibsen's description of Krogstad, he is somewhat of a shy, bitter man. Denholm Elliot does a good job of showing Krogstad's shy, but bitter personality. Also, the actor captures Krogstad's ambition to be held in regard to the public as a notable and respectable citizen again. One can see it in the actor's face when he pleads with Torvald for his job and when he pleads with Nora to help him get his job back.

†††††††† There are two scenes in particular that capture and fail to capture the essence of Ibsen's literary work. The first scene that does a poor job of capturing Ibsen's work is the scene between Dr. Rank and Nora, when Rank tells Nora of his true feelings for her. Reading the play, this scene is somewhat subtle, but gets its point across. However, Garland's adaptation is a little off. Watching the interaction of Dr. Rank and Nora during this portion of the play is a bit awkward, and this scene is an instance where Richardson portrays Dr. Rank with more emotion than the character demonstrates in the play. The scene that captures the essence of Ibsen's literary work best is the last scene between Torvald and Nora. Garland's adaptation shows the conflict between Torvald and Nora when Torvald discovers Nora's deception. One can see Torvald's rage as well as Nora's shock and disappointment with Torvald's reaction to her deeds. The scene where Nora sits down with Torvald and explains her past actions and her reasoning for leaving him and the children are well-acted. Even though it seems a little boring and dragged out in the film, the scene best dramatizes its corresponding scene in Ibsen's play.

†††††††† In conclusion, Patrick Garland's cinematic adaptation of Ibsen's A Doll House best captures the essence of the literary work. The majority of the main actors portray their characters well. Overall, the film does the play's plot and message justice with the exception of one scene.

Ashley Davis

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