A Doll's House: Fonda's Wiener Roast

         "That's better!" That was heard from many students as they left class after seeing a 1973 adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's 1879 A Doll's House, staring Sir Anthony Hopkins as Torvald, Claire Bloom as Nora, and directed by Patrick Garland. We had just seen the same movie, based on the same book and put on film the same year, staring Jane Fonda as Nora and David Warner as Torvald and directed by Joseph Losey. How could this be the same story? I know I saw the same characters and even heard much of the same lines.

         There are many differences in the cast, the players and their chemistry with each other in the two versions. Anthony Hopkins and Claire Bloom actually appear to be a family; it is easy to believe that they had shared eight years together. In comparison, Fonda and Warner look as if they had met this morning to act as if they are married. The dynamic performance of Hopkins outweighs the performance of Warner tenfold; this fact keeps me wondering if the performance of Warner was purposely dull to allow Fonda to dominate.

         After seeing the Hopkins/Bloom version, I realized that my first reaction to Fonda/Warner, which I had regarded a blatant feminist film, seemed to be justified, despite the fact that I had worried about my allowing Fonda's history to cloud my judgment. Fortunately, I feel that after viewing the Hopkins/Bloom version I am vindicated in my judgment of the Fonda film.

         In contrast, Claire Bloom's reactions, as Nora, to circumstances, children, and remorseful thought of leaving the children, made the ending more acceptable. I believed her performance; she surely had a realization in the end; she wanted more out of life. Conversely, Fonda's rendition of Nora left me believing that she was taking advantage of her circumstance to get what she wanted until it did not suit her. Then, like a crab that had outgrown her shell, she threw her old role off with no consequence to look for a new one.

         This leads me to believe that the Hopkins/Bloom version would do more to effect a change in the conditions of woman than that of the Fonda/Warner version. I believe that men today respond better to reason than a slap in the face. This is why I believe that the Hopkins/Bloom version is a better adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen play, and that the Fonda/Warner version is just an avenue for Fonda to vent her own self frustrations. It is Fonda's wiener roast.

Ron Watkins

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