Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Doll's House (DVD) 1973 / based on the play by Henrik Ibsen; starring Anthony Hopkins, Claire Bloom and Denholm Elliott

"The man is a moral cripple."

Nora Helmer leads an idyllic life. She's the pampered wife of Torvald Helmer, a banker and a man who spoils her with cash presents and little gifts almost daily, and she's the mother to 3 small children who are well-cared for by their own nanny. At least this is how it's seen from the outside looking in. In actuality, things are far different, and in fact they're becoming more desperate by the day. In connection to his recent promotion to bank manager, Torvald has elected to fire one of his employees, a man named Krogstadt, who's been accused of forging a signature on an important document. But there's something Torvald doesn't know about. What's being kept from him by Nora, and has been concealed from him for quite a while is the matter of a sum of money that Krogstadt once loaned Nora some years back when Torvald was very ill and needed a vacation.

It is not only the debt which Nora has been secretly working off which binds her loyalty to Krogstadt, but the fact that Nora is herself guilty of forging a signature, that of her own father (then deceased) as guarantor on the loan. This little secret, something for which Krogstadt is now blackmailing Nora to keep his job, will be found out sooner or later, and it is Nora dignity, Torvald's reputation and Krogstadt's livelihood which lies in the balance. But how can Nora even approach Torvald with the knowledge that his future is in jeopardy, especially since their relationship has never gone beyond the boundaries of familial niceties and formal gestures of flimsy affection--Nora essentially treated as a 'doll' of Torvald's?

This is a first-rate adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's classic tale, a filmed version of a play which included many of the same participants from the West End theatrical production. It is a story about lies and deceit, about place and society and, above all, of patriarchal hypocrisy of men and the victimization of women. A resplendent core cast of actors, namely Bloom, Hopkins and Elliott, all of whom were in their prime, or in Hopkins' case, just moving to the forefront of the A-list, entwine the audience to the suspense and conflict which arise out of circumstance and desperation. But it's Ibsen's finely crafted drama, his interweaving of chance, ambition and existential conundrums, which set A Doll's House (first written and produced in 1879) at a level above so many other classic fables and morality plays. The rising theme is bigger than what many consider it's crux, that of emerging feminism, to be. At it's core, it is a piece which exemplifies the human condition, indeed the need of every individual discover the kind of person they really are and strive to embody that person throughout their life. (DVD DOLLS)

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