Henry Ibsen's 1879 play A Doll's House revolves around one young married woman who realized she had spent her whole life playing games and acting like a doll to please first her father then her husband. The reader is meant to pity Nora's situation, and yet I cannot help wondering how she could have gone her whole life and never let her own desires interfere with the act she is putting on for the men who take care of her. She had to have lived her whole life, suppressing her own opinions, pretending to share the opinions of her father and her husband. When she left her husband in the end of the play it becomes clear that she does have have a mind of her own; and, as she often had mature conversations with her friend Dr. Rank, she had clearly not always hid her thoughts from everyone. Yet she was surprised to discover that she has lived her whole life acting as a plaything for her husband; this was the most unbelievable point of the story.
When the play was made into a movie directed by Joseph Losey in 1973, the story became even more unbelievable. Jane Fonda played Nora as a brainless woman on a sugar buzz every time she was near her husband. She would dance and skip instead of walking around her home and make strange foolish faces and animal noises. When she was not around her husband, she was almost another person. She carried on sensible conversations with both her friend Christine (Delphine Seyrig) and Dr. Rank (Trevor Howard). She became another person entirely while talking to Krogstad (Edward Fox), a man from whom she had borrowed money illegally. Nora always appeared afraid of him but never childish; a sensible woman determined to protect her family and her husband's reputation. She was so different with her husband than she was with other people that it was impossible for me to watch her realize she was putting on an act without laughing at the movie. It was as if Jane Fonda was playing two characters in the same movie, one without a brain that skips nonstop and a brave young woman who wants to start her life over.
A more believable version of A Doll's House was made by director Patrick Garland in 1973. Claire Bloom played Nora this time, and she did not skip and sing and play like a child in every scene. She still put on a show for her husband (Anthony Hopkins), but she is not an entirely different person around him. As an audience member, I could actually believe that Claire Bloom's Nora did not realize she was acting childish to please her husband. For this reason I liked this movie better. There were differences in the adaptation, but it was still the same basic story in the end. However, Claire Bloom's Nora seemed to be capable of borrowing money on her own and leaving her husband when the time came.
Unlike Claire Bloom's restrained and self-reliant Nora, Jane Fonda's overacting ruined the believability of the whole story. Her Nora did not seem capable of taking care of herself; she would probably starve months after leaving her husband.