Nora Then and Now

         What a shock it is when in Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play A Doll's House Nora Helmer, played by Claire Bloom in Patrick Garland's 1973 film version, decides to leave her husband. Even in the early nineteen hundreds, the thought of a woman leaving her husband was unheard of; let alone a couple getting a divorce. Today that has sadly changed with nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce.

         While it is true that in the film Nora acts like a child, hence the name A Doll's House, it is reasonable to ascertain that she may act in such a way because those around her are very dull. Although, it appears Nora's mission in life, at least in the beginning is to play and spend money, we see later her outlook on life quickly changes. Nora does most of the spending and hiding of macaroons under the nose of her husband, who ironically is a control freak at a bank. Nora's defiance early on has led into later problems as she is cornered when confronted about the money she had illegally borrowed from Krogstad (Denholm Elliot), while forging her dead father's signature to save her sick husband's life by taking him to Italy for the winter.

         At the climax of the movie her husband, Torvald, acted by Anthony Hopkins, reads the letter, implicating his wife of borrowing money without the consent of him, and forging her father's name on an official document. However, moments before he reads the letter he tells her: "Sometimes I wish something horrible would happen so that I could swoop down and rescue you." Unfortunately, upon reading the letter, Torvald makes it clear that he had not meant what he had said, especially when he keeps calling her a stupid woman and even slaps her around, while making no attempt to find out why she had done what she did. He is not willing at all to put his neck out for his wife, and then he only tries to take his comments back when he has learned from Krogstad that all is well again.

         Nora has concluded that she does not love her husband any more, due to his selfish actions. The ending of a newly independent Nora shutting the door behind her was very powerful, as she leaves behind the baffled Torvold pondering his hasty and ill-advised reactions to what had just taken place.

Matt Innes

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