Two Characters in One

         Characters in books, plays, and films are understood differently by different people. The author may write a character to be understood the way he or she pictures the character. Then a reader may interpret this differently, and a director for a play may still interpret the same characters differently. These different interpretations are usually noticed when books and plays are made into films. A person may read a book or play, then watch a film on it, and be totally shocked by the characters' looks and actions. This is true for the play A Doll's House, written by Henrik Ibsen in 1879, and two different 1937 films, the first directed by Joseph Losey and the second directed by Patrick Garland.

         The first film of A Doll's House, directed by Losey, interprets the characters very differently from what I had imagined. David Warner’s Torvald looks very unattractive. He even seems a bit insane with his jumpy mannerisms. He also acts rude and cold-hearted with his language towards his wife, Nora (Jane Fonda). Trevor Howard’s Dr. Rank actually seems more attractive and about the same age as Torvald. In the play, I imagined Dr. Rank to look older and wiser. Nora is depicted as more of an airhead and seems spacey in the first film. She does not seem to be bothered when Torvald speaks down to her.

         In the second film, directed by Garland, many of the characters were much more like what I had perceived them to be in the play. Anthony Hopkins’ Torvald is more attractive than David Warner’s character and seems more kind-hearted until his violent explosion at Nora near the end of the movie. Ralph Richardson’s Dr. Rank is older than Trevor Howard’s doctor and not very attractive. His politeness and mannerisms in this film were very similar to what I had gathered about Dr. Rank’s appearance from the play. Claire Bloom’s Nora is more sophisticated. She stands up for herself a bit more. Her facial expressions show that she is hurt by Torvald's negative comments. For example, she hides her face when he speaks of how she will only waste away the money he gave her. Her actions towards Torvald are exactly how I imagined.

         These two different films presented Ibsen’s original characters--Torvald, Dr. Rank, and Nora--very differently in appearance and personality from each other. Torvald, Dr. Rank, and Nora were all depicted with physical differences, or had personality traits different from the other film. This shows how any two sets of film makers, including the directors, Losey and Garland, can see the same people on the page and create quite different cinematic representations of them.

Shannon Logan

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