Two Doll's Houses: Indoors over Outdoors

         I would imagine it rather difficult to adapt a play for the screen: the film makers are taking a work that is meant for the stage, which is extremely limited in its scope, and adapting it for a format where masters of the epic like David Lean and Steven Spielberg hold sway. Most moviegoers want to see something big, so it is rare that you see a stage-to-film adaptation that keeps the action confined to the same area as in the play. One adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's 1879 A Doll's House actually stays in the stage locations, while the other awkwardly ventures out a few times. It is a commendable, if artistically pointless, exercise, and I am sure it gave the director of photography some more interesting work, but it takes away from the mood of Ibsen's work.

         Patrick Garland's 1973 version (with Claire Bloom and Anthony Hopkins) is the one that chooses not to stray too often from the Helmer residence. This directorial decision adds to the growing inner turmoil that Nora is experiencing. It is claustrophobic. Three-fourths of the way through the picture, one wishes that Nora would steal away outside for a macaroon.

         Another version of Ibsen's play premiered in 1973 (Overkill?), directed by Joseph Losey. This adaptation starred Jane Fonda and David Warner, and this film seems like a much more mainstream production. In keeping with that motif, the script sees Nora venture out a couple times…she speaks with Krogstad (Edward Fox) on the top of a hill overlooking an icy lake; she enjoys a ride through the streets with Dr. Rank (Trevor Howard). It is all shot very well, but the beautiful scenery does not complement the intensity of the subject matter. I am willing to wager that Losey's version out-grossed the more claustrophobic (and better) Garland's at the box office, though.

John Null

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