Give and Take with Different Aspects of A Doll’s House

         There are many aspects to a film, especially a film that has been produced multiple times as well as films that have been based on books. A fine example would have to be A Doll's House, by Henrik Ibsen in 1879. His story is that of a flighty, naive housewife who unknowingly commits a crime that eventually disgraces her husband and family, leading to her dramatic decision to leave her husband and children. Both versions of this story by Joseph Losey (1973) and Patrick Garland are generally true to the plot line. Nothing major changed, and no alternate ending was added as in My Fair Lady. Yet, both versions had their fair share of quirks that one would find extremely irritating; directing the audience to favor parts, or the whole, over the other adaptation.

         First of all, I found in Joseph Losey's version his choice for Torvald's character was wrong. When reading the play, I felt as though Torvald's character was more of a loving father figure with Nora being "daddy's girl." However, David Warner was anything, but loving. I found his way of portraying Torvald to be somewhat sleazy, demeaning, and entirely too harsh to be loveable. It is obvious to the audience he was never good to his wife, besides spoiling her with materialistic things. Having more of a hated towards this Torvald makes it easy to cheer on Jane Fonda's character when she decides to leave. However, I felt as though Patrick Garland's choice for Nora's husband to be right on target. Anthony Hopkins is everything a girl would want in a father figure. He has a gentle nature and voice, a loving manner, and a kind heart. He is precisely the kind of grandfather I would want for myself. So naturally, for me, he makes the perfect Torvald Helmer. However, because Anthony Hopkins is more favorable for me, it is hard for me to watch his heart be broken by a newly strong-willed Nora.

         Just because I side with Jane Fonda's character in Joseph Losey's production, does not make me prefer her over Claire Bloom's portrayal of Nora Helmer. I felt Bloom's performance was more reasonable. Not overdone, but one can see the extremes between her inner turmoil and her squirrel-esque persona. While she seems mindful of what her husband expects of her, she also appears to have a hidden strength she has not yet realized.

         Delphine Seyrig's performance as Christine Linde was more complementary for the protagonist. I felt Anna Massey was awful and lacked the emotional appeal Seyrig's character had. Seyrig's Kristine had more compassion for her dear friend while Massey's Christine treated her childhood friend as a stranger on the side of the road.

         While the setting in Joseph Losey's film was impressive and fitting, I felt Patrick Garland's film was more symbolic by him keeping the production mainly indoors, except for at night. It represents Nora's hidden depression by being trapped in the house under her husband's control. Whenever there is a shot outside, it is oddly at night in the extreme cold and snow. Obviously when thinking of snow, one thinks of purity due to its white color, however, beyond the white, it is bitter cold. It reinforces the mask Nora hides behind.

         In general, this whole concept of A Doll's House is a great annoyance to me. One of my major pet-peeves of all time is the clinginess of a couple. I cannot handle it when couples morph into one person and cannot think for themselves. This is the point that I believe all the problems start for couples, and where they did start for Nora and Torvald. I have two roommates who are coincidently twins. Being a twin, I have come to observe in this case, means never being alone. These girls still opt to share a room, have the same schedule, do not have a single article of clothing they could honestly call their own, and cannot physically separate except when their boyfriends are concerned. Coincidently, they are both in serious relationships. Neither twin can form her own opinion on a subject. It is always, "My boyfriend says this…." Or "My boyfriend thinks this…." A Doll's House is a story stressing my greatest exasperation. Torvald and Nora are both entirely too dependent on one another. The way this story ends is, by far, the way it should end for everyone in these all-encompassing relationships. When Nora realized how restricted she had been all her life, she started to decide what was best for her, not someone else telling her what was undoubtedly what she should do.

         Granted, both productions had their share of idiosyncrasies; in my opinion, Patrick Garland's edition was more on the right track (minus his decision to cast Anna Massey). Both directors put a gallant effort in to their work. There are so many aspects of a film or a story that could either make or break it; having someone make that objective decision for all is quite hard. Sometimes their efforts are not as applaud able as one would hope; but in the end, only an individual can decide what works best for themselves.

Becky Owler

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