A Doll's House: Tension and Deceitfulness

         A lot of people do not like plays on film--limited scope, too much dialog, little real action except moving here to there on the stage. In this case I think holding to the play was probably best. I view Ibsen as more a sculptor than writer. Editing would be like chipping off and gluing extra pieces onto a classic statue. He designed every word, every movement, every piece of furniture, every costume as an integral part of the whole. I like plays. However, I was favourably impressed with Patrick Garland's 1973 film version of Ibsen's 1879 play A Doll's House, starring Claire Bloom as Nora, Anthony Hopkins as Torvald, Ralph Richardson as Dr. Rank, Anna Massey as Christine, Denholm Elliott as Krogstad, and Edith Evans as Anne-Marie.

       Ibsen and those involved in the cinematic version start with a very defined and disciplined format: introduce the characters and give a sense of the conflict in the first act, develop the conflict and its complications in the second act, and slam home the denouement in the third act. "Slam home" is the operative phrase here. In A Doll's House, the audience members sense the tension early on in the play/film, in spite of Nora's light, fluttery, childish behaviour, including Claire Bloom's squirrel-like nose tweaking.

         By the second act those in the audience know that she is much more complex and artful than first impressions suggest when her secret about having borrowed money behind her husband's back, while forging her dead father's signature, to get enough money to take her husband to Italy to save his life. Those in attendance actually can feel their own muscles tensing as her plight takes on the nature of inescapable. The final ten-fifteen minutes between Nora and husband, Torvald, as she tells him off and asserts her independence, slam people in the belly with unrelenting emotional intensity, especially when the departing Nora slams the door to the apartment.

         It would be a mistake to classify the story merely as an early tale of women's empowerment; it has much broader implications that I am going to have to think over before coming to my own satisfactory understanding.

Evanthia Sotiriou

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