Who Is the Doll?

         In A Doll's House (1879), by Henrik Ibsen, there is little debate that there was someone in that house that was meant to symbolize the doll. The problem is that early on, it seems as though it is Nora, the "little lark" possessed by her husband, Torvald; and later it becomes clear that, if anyone is the doll, it is the unsuspecting husband. Although the 1973 movies, directed by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland, seem to follow Ibsen's play fairly closely, it is within the casting that the true dolls emerge. In the version directed by Joseph Losey I would argue that Nora is the doll, but in the Patrick Garland version, Torvald assumes the position.

         The idea for the play A Doll's House was to depict the suppression most women felt during the Victorian Age; however, the directing of the different versions makes all the difference. For example, in Losey's version, Torvald (played by David Warner) makes a sorry attempt at the rage that is depicted in the screen play. His anger seems to last only seconds as he subsides to the relief that he is "saved." The manner of his performance alludes to the idea that he is not all that upset at his little doll (Jane Fonda) in the end. Now, he does not seem happy that she decides to leave him, but there seems to be a little hope for him to cling to that eventually Nora will return. Jane Fonda performs the part of the passive, twitty, and downright servant of a wife that it seems she was really manipulated by her husband. It also works with the idea that she will eventually come back.

          On the other hand, the version directed by Patrick Garland changes everything. The way he decides the movie actually changes the doll in the film. Torvald (Anthony Hopkins) is enraged by what he finds out and even goes as far as hitting Nora (Claire Bloom). What speaks louder than the violence is her clam-like manner in which she approaches him with her decision. This version of Nora seems much more confident of her decision and more likely to never return. In addition, Torvald seems to be devastated by her decision and the reality of the situation. He is crushed to learn that his wife in not the passive and obedient woman he had thought she was. Instead, she is confident and opinionated and no longer his. Torvald seems to take the place of the doll in the house he has created.

         In the end of all three versions, there is no dispute that a doll is indeed living in the Helmer home; but, depending on the directing and what version is playing, the doll changes identity.

Elizabeth Fields

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