The Things We Carry

"Films can illustrate our existence...they can distress, disturb and provoke people into thinking about themselves and certain problems. But NOT give the answers." -Joseph Losey

         The above quotation is by the director of one of the film versions in 1973 of Henrik Ibsen's 1879 A Doll's House, his version starring Jane Fonda. Losey was one of the unfortunate souls badgered by McCarthyism, running off when his name was brought up. This gives setting to A Doll's House, being shot in Norway, which is the best element of the film. It is the first and only film of Losey's I have seen, and I wonder how his career is outside of it. Jane Fonda, activist she was, certainly must have had quite a large voice in the production, bringing her baggage in for a feminist tale. The end result is a kind of bland movie that never gels and is kind of dull, except for the Norwegian backdrop, which is certainly not enough to make a movie work all its own.

         Joseph Losey, though, (before being blacklisted) remade Fritz Lang's 1931 film M in 1951, which has, as I have noted, been given the sort of one-noted "blah" reviews. The fact that it was a remake of a classic makes it worse. Fritz Lang remade M himself, five years after Losey, with While the City Sleeps, which makes one wonder if the influence in remaking it was by Losey's version. These thoughts are not enough to blast a whole career; and Losey has made films with better reception; it is just that I am left wondering about the man putting this all together in my head. Director Gus van Sant remade a classic himself, Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho, in 1998, which has its own nature as bland until one compares it to the original, and then it is positively maddening sort of thing. Van Sant has an interesting career with the likes of Drugstore Cowboy and Good Will Hunting on his résumé, and his remake has in good part slipped to the wayside as he and his film Elephant won at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

         I say that to lead into how Losey's direction was competent in A Doll's House the film and could have been hindered by the feminist direction it was taken, yet I wonder. Van Sant claimed to have made his Psycho so that nobody else would have to, which sounds silly, but it is also in the strange spirit of the director. The path of Losey seems to be affected by the things he carried and that Fonda carried. Jane Fonda was a Communist sympathizer as well, and perhaps led to her and Losey collaborating and making this less than stellar film, put together by all of this baggage rather than the aspiration to make art and tell a story. Losey once said, "Film is a dog: the head is commerce, the tail is art. And only rarely does the tail wag the dog."-sounds like his reasoning.

Jesse Gilstrap

Table of Contents