The Power of Manipulation

         In the Henrik Ibsen classic 1879 play A Doll's House a fine example of manipulation can be seen. I am not referring to Krogstad's dubious blackmailing of Nora Helmer but to the way that Nora manipulates her husband, Torvald. In both of the films viewed in class one can see her skills at work. In 1973 two versions of this play were adapted to film. It seems that Nora Helmer was seen as kind of a social heroine. It is no wonder both of these films came out in 1973; it was the height of the Woman's Lib movement. She does decide to liberate herself from the clutches of her husband during a social climate that did not encourage such independent ways for woman.

         In the version directed by Patrick Garland, Claire Bloom portrays Nora. She had done an excellent job of showing the true character of the woman. Anthony Hopkins plays her foolish husband. Torvald is foolish on several levels. He is too dense to see his wife as an equal. He does not respect her intellect. His attitude is the reason Nora can play him so effortlessly. It is in the Garland version that we see Nora celebrating her husband's new-found success in a snobbish manner. She prances about her house, boasting to Christine (Anna Massey) about how much money she spent on Christmas. She does her infernal squirrel impression in an effort to extract more loot from Torvald, which she does.

         Nora is not bothered by much in her financial euphoria until, of course, it is threatened by the lowly Krogstad (Denholm Eliot). It does not bother her in the least to see the Charles Dickens style dwelling the man lived in with his two sons. She is worried only about her own social standing. That is the reason she tries to get him his job back after all. It can also be said that the main motivation Nora had to take out the loan in the first place was self preservation. True she did it to acquire money to help her sick husband recover. Why did she want him around?--because she knew the man was her meal ticket. How else would she make her way with two hungry mouths to feed?

         The Joseph Losey version however allows us to see another Nora. Jane Fonda (who has as much range as a Daisy air rifle as far as acting is concerned) takes over the role of Nora. She brings out a more naïve simple quality that Bloom does not. However, it must not have been much of a stretch for Fonda. She made me believe that Nora had been a good wife who had done what she had to do to save the life of her husband, portrayed by David Warner in this picture. His Torvald is far more unlikable then the Hopkins version.

         Therefore, I was glad that the more naive Fonda leaves Warner's indifferent and unpleasant Torvald at the end of this film to try to find a better life for herself. However, I was upset when the more manipulative Bloom does the same thing to a man who truly loves her despite her selfishness and who begs her to stay after his angry outburst, which had shown that he cares enough about her to have resented the way she had gone behind his back and pretended to be something that she is not.

Andreas Shabaan

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