Sense of Desire

         I have to say that the film-literature combination that is the most worthwhile for me would have to be Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Elia Kazan's 1951 cinematic adaptation. I enjoyed reading and watching this more than anything else I read or watched this semester.

         First off, I want to say that I love the setting of the play and movie. The ragged, old house that Stanley (Marlon Brando) and Stella (Kim Hunter) live in is inhabited and made into a home by Blanche (Vivien Leigh). They have two conflicting styles here. Stanley and Stella are used to living in poverty-stricken housing. Blanche comes over with all her expensive clothing and jewelry, and one can tell that right away Stanley does not approve. He does not like the way she carries herself, and he does not like to see her better off than he and Stella are. I love the animosity that develops between Stanley and Blanche. Blanche acts so innocent and tries to persuade Stella to be on her side. Stanley just "tells it like it is." He does not care what anyone thinks. They have some good scenes when tempers flare, like the scene at the birthday dinner table when Stanley "cleans his dishes." These situations that arise between Stanley and Blanche make the movie more fun and interesting for me to watch.

         I have to say that from the beginning, I liked Williams' portrayal of Stanley as a rough-around-the-edges type of person. I can somewhat relate to that. I grew up in the country, so I tend to see much of myself in Stanley. I am not abusive as he is, but just his rough attitude and facial expressions resemble me some. I like the accent that Brando utilizes. Stanley is a very rough character, and it shows throughout the movie. The book gave very good descriptions, and Kazan does a marvelous job of interpreting those descriptions. Stanley always gets a glare in his eyes or a mean tone in his voice when he sees Blanche. I think that honestly he can see right through her. He can tell that her ways are a little scruffed up, and he knows that her attitude and personality are both fake.

         I also like the way Stella is portrayed. She, like Stanley, is not of the best quality, as she thinks her sister is. She tries to take up for Blanche. She gets into verbal, even physical, fights with Stanley over Blanche's honor. She truly thinks that Blanche is an upstanding woman. She has no idea of Blanche's past, but she just assumes her sister is telling the truth. Many times throughout the movie, we see and hear Stella sticking up for Blanche. This is her sister, and she takes up for her.

         I have noticed that in almost every book we have read this semester, there is always a guy or girl who falls madly in love with someone who, in turn, does not feel 100 percent the same. In this case, it is Stanley's buddy Mitch (Karl Malden). He falls immediately in love with Blanche. He does not know anything about her but that she is beautiful. Blanche has no feelings that I can tell for Mitch whatsoever. She graces him with her company, mainly because of the way he treats her. At the beginning of the play, we are led to believe that Blanche comes from a rich society. She has expensive clothes, jewelry, and perfume; and she looks down on others. Mitch treats her as if she is a queen. He takes up for her and believes anything she tells him. We can see that she is just using him, but he cannot. A big turning point in the movie occurs when Stanley uncovers information about Blanche. When Mitch finds the truth for himself, he distances himself. Now everyone is having second thoughts about Blanche. But, in turn, Mitch turns against Stanley because he believes that Stanley made her this way. I believe that Mitch is a very important character in this play and film. He gives Blanche fuel in a sense. He keeps her spirits up.

         This film and book, on the other hand, gave me mixed emotions. I started out liking Stanley because of the way he carries himself; but, after he keeps on putting Blanche down and abusing her verbally and finally assaults her sexually, my views changed. I think Stanley goes too far. I believe he is just trying to communicate to Blanche that he is in charge and that she is nothing. He drives her to near insanity and also drives his wife and friends away for good, at least in the film if not in the play. Stanley is too overpowering. He wants to have full control of everyone. One can tell by the way he talks that he thinks he is superior to everyone else.

         These are just a few of the reasons that I enjoyed this book and movie adaptation the best. There were so many characters, and each had a different reason for being in the story line. They all helped the plot to expand and develop itself. I like the way the characters present themselves and the way they carry themselves while on the set. They make the story believable and enjoyable. To me, it is funny, artistic, and full of action. I love the physical aspect of the play: the things they wear, where they live, and what they eat. It all makes a huge difference to me in terms of cinematic adaptation. The way the characters speak, their personalities, even their specific tastes and preferences allow me to get a full grasp on the concept of the movie. It is very enjoyable for me to read and watch.

Josh Smith

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