Losey's Copying Cannot Quite Get It

     In 1973 Joseph Losey adapted Henrik Ibsen's 1874 A Doll's House into film format. The addition of scenes, the acting by Jane Fonda and David Warner, and many other things contributed to a movie that was far away from the intended play's meaning.

     Losey first changed A Doll's House by adding scenes that were never in the original play. Ibsen might have used the outdoors if he were filming A Doll's House, but he wrote it as a play, not a film. However, there are plays that do try to include the outdoors. A Doll's House was not one of those plays; and shifting it into outdoor scenes, even in an adaptation destroys its authenticity. Losey decided to add to an already wonderful piece of work. He must have not realized how wonderful it was, even before his inclusion of the Norwegian outdoors.

     The scenes that alter A Doll's house are not all outdoors, but they are the majority that were changed or added. The beginning is even a change by Losey. Christine (Delphine Seyrig) and Nora are talking inside a restaurant about their respective relationships. Ibsen makes it very clear the way he designed the play about the two women's relationships with men without this. Apparently Losey felt the audience too dumb to realize things people had realized for almost 100 years in the play. Losey then utilizes the Norwegian outdoors that is very beautiful covered in white. It very well could have cost quite a bit to film in Norway. Therefore, the use of the outdoors could have been forced on Losey. Whoever made the decision to film outdoors in effect reshaped the whole play. Scenes like Krogstad (Edward Fox) and Nora meeting under a bridge outside are written in; and this alters everything, by rewriting the script. Whether Jane insisted or modernization was the aim, the absence of "little squirrel" references are apparent. There are quite a few less of these sayings in Losey's adaptation. The reason seems to point towards a modern view of the play just as filming the outdoors might.

     The next major difference between play and the adaptation come from the actors. The portrayal of Nora and Torvald, by Fonda and Warner, differs from what Ibsen probably intended. Also, the onscreen "clicking" of the two actors never seems to work.

     David Warner portrayed a Torvald that was grumpy, fussy, too worried about money and very unlovable. It makes sense only in this movie that Nora could never love Torvald. He was a wretch, and who could love a wretch like him? Torvald, in the play, seemed to be worried about his career. He also seemed to be worried about finances. But in the play he was infatuated with Nora. He showed through his remarks to Nora a love for a lower thing. Losey gets caught up in the Women's Lib movement at the time, and he gives us a (David Warner) Torvald that is easily hated. After the movie it is easily understood why Nora leaves Torvald. He is an asshole, excuse the language. The absence of the little remarks about Nora could have had an effect here.

     Fonda leaves something out of Nora that Ibsen wanted in. "Fonda is definitely not the Nora that Ibsen had in mind" (Brian Gray "The Translated Doll"). Her relationship with Torvald never reaches a point of love. In the play, Nora is in a state of love and need and then slowly transforms away from that. Fonda never leaves me once to believe that Nora is in love with Torvald. Of course, it is already stated he was cold to her in this adaptation. Fonda seemed to push too much for a self-reliance understanding of Nora. Her ability to rely on herself is noted throughout the loan to Krogstad in the play. Fonda seems to distance herself from Torvald to portray her liberation that is supposed to come at the end of the play. During this adaptation, I felt Nora could have been content to leave at anytime and not just the end. The play leads me to believe in a realization won by Nora at the end. The movie leads me to believe Nora is ready to leave for earlier. She is definitely distanced from Torvald, her husband.

     The connection or rather on-screen, romance is not apparent in Losey's adaptation. Nora and Torvald never actually seem to love each other. Fonda portrays Nora as needing Torvald only for money. Torvald seems only to need Nora for ego satisfaction. Losey somehow forgets that Ibsen intended these two characters to in fact be in love. He wanted them in love for the wrong reasons, though. It is Nora's realization of why she was loving Torvald, of course, is left to rethink his love. Losey never makes it clear that the two are dependant on each other at first because of their love.

     There are many things that change Losey's film into a whole new format from Ibsen's play. First, he uses settings of outdoor scenes. By writing these in he is changing the play from original form. He also writes in a scene at the beginning to help the viewer understand more. This inclusion in the beginning was not used by Ibsen; and he was understood; therefore it seems very unnecessary. Losey also leaves sexist remarks by Torvald almost completely out. The character of Torvald seems to be an unlikable, money-hungry, career-minded and grumpy one. Nora seems not to connect with Torvald as expected from the play because of these attributes. Nora is also portrayed early on as being able to rely on herself.

     The modernization, change of characters' motives, alteration of script, outdoor scenes changed Ibsen's A Doll's House considerably. Losey succeeded in only making a new movie from a great play. It seemed almost like the way the Japanese imitated American cars when they first attempt to. They tried to copy the American cars to their tastes. They kept on trying, and now they have succeeded. Maybe if Losey kept on trying, he could have moved more over to other's tastes and not so much his. Maybe it would have been in Ibsen's tastes.

Brandon Lucas

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