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A Doll's House

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User Rating 5 Star Rating (1 Review)

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Nora Tells Helmar She Wants to Leave

Scene from A Doll's House - French advertisement circa 1900

Print Collector / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The Bottom Line

This treatment by director Patrick Garland and actors Claire Bloom and Anthony Hopkins, is especially strong. Garland manages to transcend the plot contrivances which I found, on reading Henrik Ibsen's play, to make the story almost unbelievable, and instead, create characters and a story that seem real. A surprisingly hopeful film to enjoy for itself, this would also make an interesting film to use in high school, college, or adult classes to explore issues of gender roles and expectations.

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Pros

  • both Claire Bloom and Anthony Hopkins create sympathetic characters
  • depicts "woman on a pedestal" in its positives and negatives
  • emotional depth of Nora's transformation -- and her husband's reaction -- ring true
  • fictionalized and historical settings may make discussion of feminist issues feel safer to some
  • makes a somewhat-contrived plot seem believable

Cons

  • some plot coincidences a bit too contrived
  • historical and fictional settings may, for some, make the feminist issue easy to dismiss
  • for some women, that this is written by a man might be a negative

Description

  • Henrik Ibsen's depiction of 19th century men and women -- in marriage and friendship
  • Depicts Nora Helmar's attempt to find her identity, beyond the constricting pedestal
  • Also depicts her husband Torvald Helmer's attempt to salvage his own identity at work and home
  • 1973 production directed by Patrick Garland, screenwriter Christopher Hampton
  • Claire Bloom and Anthony Hopkins star as Nora and Torvald Helmer
  • Denholm Elliott, Ralph Richardson, Edith Evans,and Helen Blatch play supporting roles

Guide Review - A Doll's House

The basic plot is this: a woman of the 19th century, pampered first by her father and then by her husband, acts out of caring -- and that act then subjects her and her husband to blackmail, threatening their security and future. How Nora, her husband, and Nora's friends attempt to deal with the threat depict different kinds of love. Some loves transform people and bring out their best and the best in their loved ones -- others make the lover and loved one smaller.

I remember the first time I read Henrik Ibsen's play, A Doll's House, in the late 1960s, just when the feminist movement was rediscovering past literary treatments of gender roles. Betty Friedan's more straightforward treatment of the ultimately-unsatisfying constrictions of women's traditional role seemed to ring more true.

In reading A Doll's House then, I was disturbed by what I read as contrived characters -- Nora always seemed quite the silly doll, even after her transformation. And her husband! What a shallow man! He didn't evoke the least bit of sympathy in me. But Claire Bloom and Anthony Hopkins, in director Patrick Garland's 1973 treatment, show how good acting and direction can add to a play what a dry reading cannot.

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