A Doll's House Round Two: Second Time Is the Charm

     After seeing A Doll's House, directed by Patrick Garland in 1973, my opinion of that play, written in 1879 by Henrik Ibsen, changed quite a bit. Unlike the 1973 film directed by Joseph Losey, this version was quite watchable and very enthralling. I enjoyed it much more than I did the previous film.

     I am not exactly sure what the difference was. The films both appear to have been made about the same time, 1973, so the stylistic differences were almost nonexistent. The sets were very similar, especially the Helmers' house. Perhaps it was the actors, all of whom I liked vastly more than those in the Losey film. I have always liked Anthony Hopkins; and he did, in my opinion, a topnotch performance in this film. It was amusing to see him so young-looking. I thought his portrayal of Torvald was much more convincing and closer to what Ibsen had in mind with the play than the actor who played Torvald in the Losey version. That actor (David Warner) was very wooden and boring, I thought. Hopkins, however, did quite well, especially at the end when he blew up at Nora. I thought he really was going to beat her up.

     Claire Bloom, the actress who played Nora, was wonderful as well. She kept the merry, cheerful, obedient wife attitude going through most of the film flawlessly; and her total reversal at the end was such a switch that it really helped juxtapose her real feelings as opposed to her outward ones. Suddenly she became very serious and very philosophical and totally passionate and confident about her choice to leave. It was a side of her no one had ever seen before and seemingly came out of nowhere, but we of course know they had been her true feelings the entire play.

     I also noticed the one scene where Torvald and Nora almost have sex, after the party. I was surprised to see this because in the other version, there seemed to be very little physical amorous contact between them, let alone intercourse. I am glad the director chose to show this because it gives a new side to these two people that I had never thought about before. It is also great exposition for Nora's nonexistent love for Torvald when she denies him.

     I also loved Denholm Elliot as Krogstad. I like his voice a lot and his extreme "Britishness," and I really got a sense of Krogstad's suffering in his performance. Krogstad was still a class-A jerk, but I came away understanding why he was that way.

     I also did not notice as much the emphasis on Dr. Rank's (Trevor Howard) love for Nora in the first film. This time it was blaringly clear the "old guy," as played by Ralph Richardson, had it really bad for Nora. I felt so sorry for him, and I also liked his gruff-yet-kind gentlemanly manner. I also got a new sense of how much Nora cared for him as a friend and confidant. Of course, if he had not dropped that death-notice in their mailbox, Nora might have been able to intercept Krogstad's letter, and things would have come out differently. But then, it still would not have been best for Nora.

     All in all I liked this version leaps and bounds more than the first. It had more heart, more personality, and was dramatically more intense. Obviously it had a much better cast, and director Garland did an outstanding job of interpreting the play for the screen. The music in this film was almost not even there and played a minimal part in the movie, but that did not take away anything from the film. From this version, I was able to understand the "point" the play was trying to make, that Nora was living a lie, and needed to create her own life, doing what she wanted to. I do not have quite as much contempt for Ibsen's play as I did before, I am happy to say, for it is--an enjoyable film experience on the whole.

Dan Bush

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