Which Torvald Was the Better Catch?

         For the most part, Joseph Losey's 1973 film, A Doll's House, and Patrick Garland's 1973 version of A Doll's House, both based on Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, were very similar; however, there is one key difference that I noticed, Torvald. Of course there were some similarities between the characters. In both films, Torvald was a dominating, self-confident man whose life revolved around his reputable career, a soon-to-be appointed bank manager. He was also a controlling, selfish pig that treated the woman in his life like a doll. However, I believe the director Garland presented Torvald much more sympathetically and affectionately than the director Losey did in his film.

         I believe Torvald (Anthony Hopkins) showed more emotional concern for Nora (Claire Bloom), his loving wife, in Garland's film than David Warner in Losey's film. For example, in both films, Nora desired money as her Christmas present from Torvald. In Garland's version, Torvald counted out forty dollars in a fun-loving way, whereas in Losey's version, Torvald (David Warner) hesitated to give Nora (Jane Fonda) any money at all because he believed she would spend it all on "nonsense"; and he would have to reach in his pocket again. When Nora also brought home the Christmas presents, in Garland's version, Torvald was actually excited about the gifts, whereas in Losey's version, Torvald did not like the idea of Nora spending money on all of the gifts. In fact, Warner's Torvald reminded Nora that he had not yet received the position of the manager of the bank and that it was not a great idea that she be spending money they do not even have in hand.

         In Garland's film, Torvald also showed more emotional concern for Nora when she was practicing her Tarantella dance for the holiday party. In both films, the respective Noras were not performing their best as their respective Torvalds noticed. Both Torvalds complained: "I can't believe it. You forgot everything I taught you." In Losey's version, Torvald snarled it in an extremely harsh manner, whereas in Garland's version, Torvald was much more sympathetic. He even responded very calmly, "Now, let's try everything a little slower." Both characters remarked essentially the same thing towards Nora; however, it was the way they said it that made the difference.

         I also believe Torvald was much more affectionate towards Nora and their children in Garland's film than in Losey's film. In Garland's film, Torvald kissed and hugged Nora more often and even mentioned at one point that he continued to dream that Nora is his "secret lover and young bride," even after having been married to her for eight years. As for his children, Torvald was gentle and kindhearted with them and even took part with the rest of the family in decorating the Christmas tree. In Losey's film, Torvald rarely showed affection towards Nora or their children. For example, when Torvald found out Nora had kept a secret for eight years about borrowed money, he told Nora to go to her room. Then he proceeded to refer to their children as "her" children. It was as if he had nothing to do with his own flesh and blood. Even though Hopkins' Torvald slapped his Nora and overreacted more than Warner's Torvald, at least he was reacting in a strong emotional way to what he regarded as her betrayal of him.

         All in all, I am not trying to make it sound as if Torvald in Garland's film was a perfect gentleman. He still was a dominating, selfish pig throughout the film. After all, Nora ended up leaving him in both films; therefore, it was obvious he was not the greatest catch. The point I am trying to make is that Torvald in Garland's film seemed to show more emotional concern and affection towards Nora.

Melanie Brewer

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