Reversed Roles

         Although each film/book combination in this course portrays several characters both fit and unfit for the acting roles, I believe Christine (Anna Massey) in Patrick Garland's 1973 film A Doll's House is the least well portrayed. In contrast to Henrik Ibsen's 1879 A Doll's House, the film's character is certainly not the happy lark.

         I first noticed the difference in Garland's Christine and Ibsen's when she first walks up the stairs to Nora's home. She very shyly backs off the steps as a man leaves the house and then walks forward again to the door. She enters the house as quietly as one could imagine.

         In the play, Christine is cheerfully ushered into Nora's home, and both Christine and Nora excitedly greet each other. They cannot wait to sit down and share their life stories since they have so many memories and have not seen each other in a long time. The two carry on about Christmas. Christine stays with Nora (Claire Bloom) during the days; they talk, embroider or knit, and Nora even tells Christine about her whole situation with the borrowed note. Christine listens attentively to Nora, and she also comments that Nora is still very much like a child. It all seems to fit the characters as portrayed in the play; however, the film does not seem the same.

         Garland's Christine is a whole different character, almost a total reversal of the character in the Ibsen play. In the film, Christine does not seem to even crack a smile. She is distant and very cold and not even excited to see Nora, a good friend she has not seen in so long. Although the purpose for Christine's visit is not revealed in the film, we gather from her expressions that she obviously did not come just to see her friend, but has other intentions: to get a job. In the play, Christine even says to Nora that she has come in hopes to get a job at the bank where Torvald (Anthony Hopkins in Garland's film) is now manager. She says she heard of the job opening there and hopes Nora can help her. In the film, Christine seems as though she has lied to Nora. She tells Nora she did not hear about the position at the bank. However, why else would she have come? As stated before, it was not just to visit Nora. She does reveal that she is looking for a job, and although she asks for Nora's help to get a job at the bank, she does not approach the subject as quickly as it seems from reading the play. So, as you can see, Christine shows very little expression. She also seems very distant in the film. Krogstad (Denholm Elliot) walks past Christine, and she does not even seem to care. He was once a love of hers, and she does not even acknowledge him.

         Christine, however, does inquire as to whether it really was Krogstad, but we do not hear very much happening between the two in the film. Christine does not seem to chase after Krogstad as one might think she would in the play. She is alone now, a widow. Why does she not want to go back and befriend a man she still loves? And she does not, until Nora needs her help, in light of Christine's previous relationship with Krogstad.

         In the play, it seems as through Christine does think about Krogstad, not that she necessarily runs after him, but she does seem more eager to help Nora when she is troubled with the forged note. When Nora sees the letter from Krogstad in the letterbox that will reveal everything Nora has done to Torvald--such as borrowing money behind Torvald's back to save his life--she runs quickly to Christine. Christine readily sets out to talk to Krogstad so that he might ask for his letter back. Then, she quickly changes her mind after talking with Krogstad and decides he should wait to send a second letter, giving the note back. Christine persuades Krogstad to let Torvald discover the dark secrets Nora has kept from him--the borrowed money and her father's forged signature.

         In the film, however, Christine goes to Krogstad about the letter in the letterbox. Upon greeting him, she seems rather unconcerned with him. Christine seems interested in him, though, but not as much as in she does in the play. They speak of Nora's issues, but Christine shows no concern one way or another as to whether Torvald discovers Nora's secret or not. She does not persuade Krogstad to send a second note or to take back his letter, and she does not tell Krogstad to keep the second letter until the first is opened as she does, as played by Delphine Seyrig, in Joseph Losey's 1973 film version of A Doll's House. She does, however, seem to want a relationship with Krogstad, to be a mother to his children.

         She does not seem altogether as concerned in Garland's film. She does not push that Torvald finds the lie Nora has lived, nor does she try very hard to prevent the lie from being discovered. Ibsen's Christine does, however, push for Nora to tell her situation to Torvald. Christine has noticed the state of Nora and Torvald's relationship--Nora is but a child living in a playhouse--and it is only right that she becomes an adult and discusses her issues with her husband. We do not see this same idea from Christine in the film: She seems more unconcerned than concerned. In the film, Christine does not seem to have as great a role as in the play. The character is not seen as much throughout the film as she is in Losey's film and in the play. Her character flips back and forth in the play as to whether she should help her friend Nora, and Christine does aid Nora by helping her to find independence.

         In Garland's film, Christine just does not fit the role I had pictured from the play. She is not as cheerful. She is not the same. Christine is just there, with very little personality and very little action. Therefore, I choose Christine in Garland's film to have least portrayed her acting role in comparison to that of the original literary work.

Jonetta Tabor

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