Mood Lighting

     Director Patrick Garland used both lighting and the musical score in A Doll's House, the 1973 film, based on Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, to help set the mood, but the lighting was the most effective.

     Much of the time the music was low and simply background, largely unnoticed. The most effective use of the score was during Nora's (Claire Bloom) rehearsal of the Tarantella. It was a tense and suspenseful moment, and the music was loud and frenzied. As the music built to a crescendo, and Nora danced more and more intently, the viewer felt with ominous surety that something big was about to happen. This was superbly meshed with the scene when Nora asserted that she is dancing as if her life depends on it. When the music suddenly stopped, one expected the big event to happen. However, in this scene the big event was avoided, not delayed. This non-occurrence of the big event was not really a big letdown because it helped build the suspense toward the later climax of the film.

     Garland's use of lighting in the film was much more dramatic. Some scenes were extremely bright, while others were very dim. The light level seemed to approximate the mood of the scene and was helpful in conveying this intent. Early scenes were bright, happy scenes like preparing the Christmas presents and the tree. The first scene with Christine (Anna Masssey) was bright and cheery. But as the film went along, we saw several dark and dreary scenes, such as the scenes in Krogstad's (Denholm Eliott) room. The darkness helped to portray a sense of unhappiness and poverty, even uncleanliness. Other scenes used varying light levels to enhance the mood. There was both intimacy and gloom in the dark scene with Nora and Dr. Rank (Ralph Richardson) discussing their relationship and his impending demise. This scene was dark even after Nora lit the candelabra.

     Many of the scenes were so dark that background detail was hard to discern. But in the final scene with Nora and Torvald (Anthony Hopkins), it was as if the entire stage was well lit. The focus was on the couple and their conversation, but I was examining details in the home that I had been unable to see before: the fine woodwork and furniture, and bookshelves and knickknacks. It was as if my eyes had been opened. That was the intent of the director because that was Nora's mood too. She was seeing things in and about her life that she had never realized before.

Bradley Haley

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