One Deep Talk, And I'm Off

         If I were to teach a course on relationships to a group of students, the most outstanding book/film combination I would use from this class would definitely be A Doll's House, written in 1879 by Henrik Ibsen and filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland, respectively. Almost any time the success of a relationship is discussed, the importance of communication is indicated as the most crucial ingredient to a proper relationship. Note that the adjective "proper" is used to describe a successful relationship; this is because the definition of a "happy" relationship at one point in a person's life may change dramatically from one period to the next. Communication is the vital element of a relationship that can properly make necessary transitions occur with as much ease that the people involved will allow.

         The relationship of Nora (Jane Fonda/Claire Bloom) and Torvald (David Warner/Anthony Hopkins) comes to a shocking, abrupt end, for Torvald anyhow. An outsider's perspective can easily notice the faults in another couple's relationship, oftentimes with much more ease than those involved in the relationship. For example, the viewers/readers of all three versions of A Doll's House quickly become aware of the downfall of Nora and Torvald's marriage from witnessing Nora's stored emotions and Torvald's inattentive mannerisms alongside his demeaning behavior. The viewers and readers quickly begin to realize that this is obviously a couple in dire need of sessions with a marital counselor.

         Unfortunately, this couple does not receive counseling. Nora simply leaves Torvald. Now imagine the shock that this man must feel when he learns his little, helpless, chipper, dancing Nora proclaims she has never been happy with their marriage. Whether this is David Warner's Torvald, who deserves to be left for indications of a truly cruel temperament, or Anthony Hopkins' Torvald, who may have some hope in him yet for becoming a better husband, is not the point.

         The point is that by observing this sorry excuse for a marriage, a person can learn that a successful relationship cannot afford to lack communication skills. How is Torvald to know he needs to pay more attention and give more credit to Nora's intellectual capabilities if he never comes across any signs of unhappiness? Most spouses whine that their partner, friend, or family member never pays enough attention to them. However, the reality is that people do not know what personal skills they may lack, especially if the attention-deprived victim keeps a constant smile upon his or her face. True, Torvald seems to be demeaning and disrespectful to Nora a number of times, but there are hardly any signs of disapproval on Nora's behalf, and there are many times when it seems that she thinks it is even funny or cute. With behavior and reactions such as these, there is no way for Torvald to know anything about Nora's years of unhappiness.

         Torvald and Nora exchange one serious conversation, and she then decides to leave. This should have been the point at which their marriage changes, compromises, and above all else, paves the way from greater communication skills in order to live their lives together in a more proper relationship.

Janna Tanner

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