The Shy Silver Screen

     The rise of women's need for independence and a higher place in society is something that we most often associate with the sixties. Yet in 1879 Henrik Ibsen wrote about a woman who did just this in his play A Doll's House. The play is a classic, and one of the first great pieces of feminist literature. Why, then, was it almost 100 years later in 1973 that its film counterpart was made?

     The movie, directed by Patrick Garland, which stars Anthony Hopkins and Claire Bloom, is almost identical to the play. It does not avoid controversy, which is obvious in its final scene when Torvald slaps Nora and calls her a "Stupid, stupid woman." Just as like in the play, she asserts herself and shows Torvald her strength and individuality by leaving him and their children. But it could not controversial in 1973; the women's rights movement was in full effect.

     So why does Hollywood seem shy away from these types of issues? The reason is a purely economic one. Hollywood almost always tries to make its pictures mainstream, not wanting to offend anyone. This still exists today, as is evident in the editing of scenes from upcoming films containing shots of the World Trade Center Towers.

     The motion picture industry is always a little bit behind when it comes to works containing debatable topics. Anti-war novels, civil rights novels, and even anti-government novels always show up before movies addressing the same issues. Most important works of literature do not have to please anyone, because they are written by people who want to express their opinions and are not so as concerned with the almighty dollar.

     I think the film industry could advance leaps and bounds if major production companies were not so afraid to take on touchy subjects. In fact, I think one of the best movies of recent years was American Beauty, directed in 1999 by Sam Mendes, which depicted a love relationship between a married man and his daughter's best friend. While many people were outraged, the movie was awarded with a Best Picture Oscar and will be an outstanding example of film making for many years to come.

     A Doll's House is not outrageous to us at all in 2001, and it was not in 1973. But what would have happened if the film had been released in the forties, Hollywood's age of romance and happy endings? Unfortunately, we will never know the answer, because no one had the guts to make it.

Brooks Dawkins

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