A Doll's House, written by Henrik Ibsen in 1879, is the story of a young wife and mother who finds herself in a financial pickle. Nora Helmer has borrowed some money, while forging her dead father's signature, to help her husband Torvald get well after an illness by taking him to Italy for the winter. Now years later, she has yet to pay the money back. And, now Torvald is the new bank manager and has a respectable reputation throughout the community.
In the late 1800s, when this story takes place, it is unheard of for a woman to be handling the family's financial issues. When the woman goes behind the husband's back, it is a scandal. Eventually, the story unfolds, and Nora decides she has to leave Torvald to find herself.
While reading the play, I was bored to tears. It is a very flat story. Yes, the woman has borrowed some money and has yet to pay it back. Yes, the woman bounces around like an idiot most the play. But, truthfully I did not care-well, not until the last scene. I finally realized that the point of this mostly mind-numbing escapade is that one woman at last decided it is more important to live for herself than for others. Now, the controversial part of the ordeal is the fact that the others mentioned are a husband and children. It is a very profound thought even by today's standards.
Joseph Losey's 1973 film A Doll's House was just as boring as the book. We meet Nora, played by Jane Fonda, a little earlier in the story. The adding of previous history has only prolonged the agony. More importantly, Jane Fonda is completely unconvincing here. I was quite surprised because the point of the story is ultimately "girl power," and is that not idea synonymous with Jane Fonda? Even the on-location set in Norway did not improve this travesty. While watching the movie, I reminded myself that I needed to wait until the last scene to really judge the movie. But even the scene that justifies the story in the play does not save the movie. I would have to blame it on Jane Fonda's betrayal of Nora. She decides to leave to better herself. But, it does not really feel like the tough decision it should have been. Then again, once one has seen see a Jane Fonda workout video, it is hard to see her in any type of role in which she is not trying shape her abs, buns, and thighs.
The 1973 movie A Doll's House, directed by Patrick Garland, is a far superior flick. It was easier to get into. Not that it did not have its moments of dragging the story along, but Claire Bloom does a great job as Nora. Bloom has a doll-like quality that makes the audience feel that they are seeing a helpless little woman trapped inside a world where bigger influences are mapping out her every move. But, the instance in which the movie really succeeds is the pivotal last scene. When Bloom as Nora is telling Anthony Hopkins' Torvald that she is leaving, one can sympathize. Even though this woman is walking out on her family, the audience is left believing that is the only way it can be.
The idea of a mother leaving her children to find herself is almost unforgivable. In the play and the Jane Fonda film, I was disgusted by this woman. Yet, it takes a real acting talent to do something horrible and make it seem like a viable option. Claire Bloom does that in A Doll's House, and that is the reason this version overshadows the others.