If I were to teach a course on relationships to a group of college students, I think that the book/film combination I would use would be Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, A Doll's House, and Joseph Losey's 1973 film adaptation. In the course, I would want to show the difficult aspects of what a good marriage takes and why the marriage of Nora (Jane Fonda) and Torvald (David Warner) does not last. In this essay, I will establish what I think ruins Nora and Torvald's marriage.
I think that the first bad sign in the marriage is the couple's inability to communicate about practically anything in their lives. Instead of talking to each other, they turn to Dr. Rank (Trevor Howard) to solve their problems. In the play, there is a triangle that exists between Dr. Rank, Nora, and Torvald. One reason that this triangle exists is that Nora and Torvald feel more comfortable talking to Dr. Rank about problems that are going on in their marriage than with each other. I believe that when they turn to Dr. Rank, they create more problems than they already have. In a marriage, one needs to be able to communicate with one's spouse about whatever problems or concerns one is having. When one is not able to communicate, one will never get problems resolved. These problems will then build up into a massive problem and eventually explode.
As for Nora and Torvald always turning to Dr. Rank, I think this leads to another problem in their marriage. Since both turn to Dr. Rank for comfort or answers, I believe that he then turns to them for love and acceptance. I believe, even though it is never specifically mentioned in the book or film, that Dr. Rank loves both Nora and Torvald and wants to be a part of them. I think that Dr. Rank cares deeply about both Nora and Torvald and wants to see them separated so that he can then jump in and become the partner of one of them. However, I think Dr. Rank would rather have Torvald all to himself. The role that Dr. Rank plays in the play and film is quite unique. Few real-life couples have a third person whom they would rather communicate with rather than their spouse. With this, I think Dr. Rank does more harm than good for Nora and Torvald's marriage.
Another problem that I see between Nora and Torvald is that neither of the these two trust one another. When Nora comes in from shopping, for example, Torvald questions her as if she were under investigation as to what she had done and whom she had seen. Trust is another vital aspect of a healthy relationship; and when one does not trust one's spouse, problems are bound to arise.
Another aspect that I noticed, more in the movie than the play, is all of Nora's sneaking around behind Torvald's back. I think a good example of this is when she wants to eat a macaroon. Since Torvald does not approve of macaroons, anytime Nora wants them, she must sneak behind Torvald's back to eat a few. In a good relationship, neither spouse should have to sneak around to do something they really want.
I believe that in the film, Nora is presented differently than in the play. When one finally sees the film, one is better able to grasp what exactly Nora has to go through as Torvald's wife. The film lets one see all the sneaking around she has to do. Whether borrowing money or eating macaroons, Nora has to sneak around to do what she wants. Also in the film, one can see how Torvald and Nora do not communicate with one another. No matter what problem they face, they turn to Dr. Rank instead of talking out their problems or concerns with one another. I thought this was so strange when I first saw it in the film, but as the movie progressed, it just seemed something that takes place all the time in the Helmer household.
I think this book/film combination is a good example of "what not to do in a marriage." I hope that by teaching a course and using this as an example, I can get people to see why Nora and Torvald's marriage does not last. I do think it is best that Nora leaves Torvald at the end of the film. At least this way she will be able to live the rest of her life happily. At the end of my course, I would encourage all of my students to get out of relationships that they were not happy in because life is too short to be unhappy. I hope they would understand why I would say this, given my example of the unlucky marriage in A Doll's House.