A Tale of Two Torvalds

     After reading Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, A Doll's House, I was looking forward to seeing the two films based on this work. After seeing the 1973 Joseph Losey directed version of A Doll's House, staring Jane Fonda as Nora and David Warner as Torvald, I was highly disappointed. This was not the Doll's House that I had just finished reading. Henrik Ibsen's Torvald loved his wife, just did not appreciate her for all she was. This Torvald seemed to be completely hostile, perhaps an abusive husband. The way I remembered Torvald from Ibsen's play was a man who played little games with his wife, he called her little pet names because he thought it was cute; however, this Torvald's use of those same pet names came across as insultive, cruel remarks said to show contempt for Nora. I left class feeling gypped seeing this story, that I enjoyed so very much, raped for the feminist cause of its star, Miss Jane Fonda. I felt that this film was a far cry from the story which Henrik Ibsen had intended.

     I returned to class the next week to view a second interpretation of Ibsen's work. I thought to myself, "Will this views in this film represent those in Ibsen's work, or will this version stray as far from his work as the previous?" I wondered if anyone could make a film which was as good as Ibsen's original work. As I watched the 1973 Patrick-Garland directed version of Ibsen's story, starring Claire Bloom as Nora and Anthony Hopkins as Torvald, I noted that Hopkins' Torvald resembled the Torvald that I had read in Ibsen's play. This Torvald was a man who loved his wife in his own way but underestimated her; he was a man who played little games with his wife; and the names he called her (which seemed abusive and demeaning in the first film) came off as cute pet names that he had for his wife. Although the Torvald in this film does strike his wife in a fit of anger, Hopkins's Torvald comes across as a less abusive husband than the Torvald from the previous version.

     In my opinion, if Ibsen were alive today and could give us his feeling about these two film versions of his story he would agree with my view; he would love Garland's film version of his play, but he would disapprove of Losey's feminist propaganda film version of his work.

Nolan Patton

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