A Dollís House, Not A Lionís Den

         The 1973 film production of Ibsenís A Dollís House, starring Jane Fonda, is failure because it misses some crucial aspects of the play: the claustrophobia of space and of character.

         The film makes some attempts at authenticity regarding the original 1879 play since it was shot in Norway, and this is where the play is set. However, this disregards that the scenes in the play never take place outside of the house, thus rendering the geographic location somewhat superfluous to the plot. Instead, some spectacle is made of the on-location filming by adding several scenes (such as the opening in the coffee shop) that serve no function in the film other than announcing that, yes, this production was shot in Norway with real snow. While on-location filming possesses no inherent ill-effects on the nature of a film, Ibsen created the closed, interior staging of the play to engage a sense of claustrophobia to reflect Noraís growing panic. This important element of form is abandoned in favor of filming a snowy wonderland to include in movie trailers. However, while Norway is very pretty, the suffocating atmosphere interwoven into the play is unfortunately cut.

         The other unfortunate change made involves the characters of Nora and Torvald. In the play, Torvald is not wholly venomous toward everything around him. He can show affection for his wife, children, and friends. In the film production, Torvald, as portrayed by David Warner, is contorted into something of a troll that can incite no sympathy from the audience. Nora, in contrast, is portrayed as a wondrous child rather than an inexperienced yet savvy woman. During the finale of the film, the angelic Nora chastises the ogre Torvald as she saunters out the door. This undermines perhaps the most crucial theme of the play: Torvald is not meant to be as inaccessible as a ghoul, and Nora is not meant to be a raging she-beast of feminism. Rather, the story requires Torvald and Nora to be close to center in order to hit its target of social change. Noraís struggle for independence and Torvaldís unequalled pride of being debt-free come off as flatly didactic and polarizing.

         The strength of the play resides in that Nora and Torvald are supposed to be plausible characters in addition to being allegories of social attitudes.

Clay Wyatt

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