A Whole Other World

         Reading and watching A Doll's House, I kept thinking, "I can't imagine living that way." Nora leads a life that appears to be typical of women in her time period. I feel that Joseph Losey's 1973 adaptation of A Doll's House, based on Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, captures the family life of the time period very well. I also feel that Ibsen wrote an amazing story for any director to bring to life. First, the backdrop of the film--the architecture, the clothing and setting--sets the tone. Secondly, the characteristics of each character build on the culture portrayed in the story. Finally, the language of the characters is what cinches the whole film together.

         In Joseph Losey's cinematic adaptation of A Doll's House, the time period is established by the architecture. From the row of houses to the horse-drawn carriages, the audience instantly knows it is not 2005. From here, viewers begin to pay attention to the clothing of all the characters. While the men in suits seems very formal and outdated, what is more eye-catching are the women's dresses. Nora (Jane Fonda) is always seen in large fancy dresses. By today's standards, these dresses are fancy, but during that time period, it was considered normal and proper for a woman of the house to wear such dresses day in and day out. Also, the outfits of the maids and nannies indicate the time period as today's "servants" usually have a different uniform, if any at all.

         Next, the characteristics of each character help illustrate the culture depicted in the story. When the audience sees that Nora and Torvald (David Warner) have help around the house, the audience instantly knows the family is somewhat well-off. From here, the family members' interactions with each other indicate the hierarchy of the household. Because families of the time were usually taken care of by the father, it is one of the major clues to the year of the film. Torvald has an air about him that says, "I am the man of the house, and I will not be told what to do by a woman."

         Along with the dominance of Torvald is Nora's willingness to be dominated. Nora allows her husband to be the sole provider and to control her emotions--even her happiness. As a woman of 2005, it is hard to watch this film and not think, "I can't believe how he treats her."

         On top of the clothes, the setting, and the characters' characteristics is the language. This is seen as icing on the cake, the one element that is not visual that tells the viewer or reader when this story takes place. In this story, it is not so much about the actual words that are spoken, but rather how they are spoken.

         For all of the characters, it is enunciation and the use of proper language that tells of times past and of a sophisticated area. Also, the tone of each character identifies his or her role. For Torvald, it is a very deep tone that identifies his authority. One does not often hear his voice filled with the casualness of laughter. For Nora, it is the complete opposite. Her voice is at a low pitch, like that of a kitten or a child. Torvald assigns her a doll-like role and dictates how she behaves and feels. One can even hear this identifier in the help; the nanny often uses bad grammar, and it indicates that she, obviously, did not have a good education.

         All of the visual, behavioral, and verbal elements of the story are instant identifiers that tell the audience this story does not take place in today's world.

Alichia Sawitoski

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