A Torvald We Can Tolerate

         Anthony Hopkins' performance as Torvald in Patrick Garland's 1973 movie version of Henrik Ibsen's 1879 A Doll's House quite easily eclipsed Joseph Losey's own 1973 version. Where David Warner's Torvald was more of a chauvinistic caricature, Hopkins' Torvald was a living, breathing man with a mixture of good qualities and serious faults. Instead of the "Take that, you pig" response I had toward David Warner, I actually felt moved by Hopkins' despair when Nora (Claire Bloom) left him. As warped as his paternal controlling was, the viewer suspected that Torvald's affection for Nora had the potential to develop into adult love.

         Hopkins' performance in the movie portrayed a man absorbed in his business who regarded his wife as nothing more than an enjoyable distraction, just as one would a doll. He was not as cold and explosive as Warner's Torvald. Hopkins' Torvald was more dismayed than angry at Nora's botched-up dance rehearsal; he actually managed to laugh when conversing with her; and his reaction to her leaving in the end registered more sadness and desperation than outrage. He said the same things Warner's Torvald said but with a question in his voice, as if trying to convince himself of truths that did not seem so true after all. The viewer felt as though maybe he could come around. One almost wanted to Nora to stay and give him a chance, or at least name a date when she might return.

         Hopkins' superbly realistic portrayal of Torvald was no doubt what Henrik Ibsen had in mind for the character. Hopkins mastered the part of a developed character in a way that would make any author proud, avoiding the oversimplification from which Losey's film suffered. Rather than concluding with the black and white certainty that Torvald was not worth the marriage, Garland's movie left the viewer in the murky gray zone, nagged by the question of Torvald's potential to be a worthy husband of Nora.

Naomi Deardorff

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