The Interpretation of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House Presented by Patrick Garland Essay (Movie Review)

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer

The role of women in the society of the 19th century is a rather controversial point for the discussion in literature because of the fact the end of the century can be characterized as the period of the women’s awakening and starting their struggle for the real equality in rights with men. Henrik Ibsen presented his vision of the woman’s position in the society in the play A Doll’s House which became the sensation because of the accents on the problematic social questions.

The play was performed on stage many times, and there are several film adaptations of Ibsen’s work. It is necessary to pay attention to the film adaptation of 1973 directed by Patrick Garland, starring Claire Bloom and Anthony Hopkins.

Although stage productions and film adaptations often reflect the director’s vision of the play and its problems which can differ from the playwright’s idea, Garland’s adaptation of A Doll’s House can be discussed as the effective interpretation of the problems of the woman’s social position and the human personal freedom developed by Ibsen in his play.

The main strong feature of the film is its strict dependence on the play’s plot and the author’s description of the settings which was followed thoroughly. It is possible to notice only few details which were changed by the director to provide the audience with the feeling of the real situation.

It is necessary to pay attention to several excursions outside when the main scenes are developed in the house of Torvald Helmer. Thus, there are no significant transformations in the plot to meet the director’s intentions, and such additions as the developed scene of the ball can be discussed as the device to emphasize the main characters’ emotions with the help of accentuating their actions. From this point, the director tries to represent not only his vision of the play, but interpret the work according to the playwright’s ideas.

The problems which are discussed in the play and in the film are the questions of the women’s social rights, their position in the men’s society, the issue of the personal freedom, the problem of relations between men and women in the family as a result of the impact of social gender stereotypes.

Patrick Garland has no intention to add some modern issues to the discussion in the film, but the ideas developed in the adaptation can be discussed as current for the social situation of the 1970s when the movement to protect the women’s rights was especially active.

It is also possible to determine the other important messages which were developed in the play and film such as the problems of friendship, blackmail, and lying for the benefit of the other person. The positive features of Garland’s film adaptation are in following Ibsen’s ideas to emphasize their revolutionary character, vividness, and currency.

Nora, the main female character of the play, is the woman who comes through definite stages of her personal development, realizing that her life was rather artificial, and her house was only a doll’s house where the family values were insignificant in comparison with the importance of the social status and image (Ibsen).

It is an interesting fact that Claire Bloom also participated in the adaptations of Ibsen’s play on stage that is why the role of Nora is close and familiar for the actress, and Bloom’s acting can be considered as persuasive an emotional. In his adaptation, Garland concentrates on the emotional state of Nora and her feelings and accentuates her inner struggle and considerations with the help of the cameraman’s work when the shots are changed in relation to the changes in Nora’s emotions and her attitude to the husband (“A Doll’s House”).

Nora is traditionally perceived as the childish woman, who cannot make the independent decisions, but her character develops during the play, and the audience has the opportunity to observe the willed person who wants to be respected by her husband because of her devotion and her ability to act independently.

Bloom’s Nora represents all the stages of the character’s development successfully. Furthermore, it is possible to observe the changes in Nora’s tone of the voice, her movements, and gestures. Her speech changes along with her perception of the reality, and there are no signs of childishness in Nora at the end of the film (“A Doll’s House”).

One of the most interesting director’s approaches to accentuate the emotional state of Nora is the scene with the Christmas ball when Nora dances the Tarantella. Ibsen used the symbolic meaning of this dance to accentuate Nora’s gaining the feeling of the personal freedom in spite of the pressure of the social prejudice.

Thus, Garland accentuated the scene and used it to present the female character’s emotions as a kind of her opposition to the society with its norms because the norms and rules limited the women’s rights. Moreover, the scenes with a dancing heroine are also important to emphasize the chaos in her thoughts and feelings, which is represented with the help of the outstanding cameraman’s work.

To determine the difficulties which can be experienced by the woman in the society of the 19th century, it is necessary to focus on the male characters of the play. Nora’s husband Torvald Helmer is depicted as the person who does not perceive Nora seriously. Thus, Nora is just a little child or even Torvald’s doll.

Helmer’s attitude is also accentuated with the help of using definite names for Nora. For instance, perceiving Nora as a child, he says that she is a “little squirrel” (Ibsen 168). However, when Nora does not meet his expectations Helmer is inclined to forget about his attitude to the wife, and he discusses her as a betrayer who does not think about the husband’s social status and image.

The problem is in the fact that Nora thinks and cares for her husband, but Helmer does not notice her efforts. Garland sticks to the text, and the character of Torvald Helmer presented by Anthony Hopkins can be discussed as responding to the audience’s perception of Ibsen’s Torvald. Moreover, Hopkins’ character is even colder and more possessive in comparison with Ibsen’s portraying the character.

The figure of Krogstad in the film does not attract the audience’s attention because the duet of Bloom and Hopkins makes the vivid kernel of the film.

Garland adapted the play with references to the details and careful interpretation of the main themes, but he also paid much attention to the characters’ casting. Bloom and Hopkins’ acting are among the positive aspects of the film because they make the drama alive and touching.

That is why, Garland’s accents on Nora and Torvald’s final dialogues are based on Bloom and Hopkins’ great acting. Furthermore, the increase of the distance between the spouses is stressed with the help of using the shots to present the characters and the changes in their appearances and emotions (“A Doll’s House”).

Garland made good attempts to emphasize the provocative character and controversy of Nora’s decision to leave her home. While reading the play, it is possible to pay attention to the tension of the moment, and this tension was vividly represented by the actors in the final scene.

Thus, Nora tries to rebel against the social norms supported by her husband which are not correlated with her vision of the good actions, and she feels her freedom to make her own decisions without being afraid of the public’s opinion.

Patrick Garland’s film adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House can be discussed as successful because the director sticks to the playwright’s text, follows Ibsen’s ideas without adding another meanings and messages to the points discussed in the play.

From this perspective, the film is the real adaptation of the play when the director’s position is in interpreting the play’s text carefully and representing it with the help of a camera. Moreover, it is necessary to pay attention to the good choice of the actors for the film because the acting of Claire Bloom and Anthony Hopkins can be analyzed as emotional and vivid.

Thus, the evolution of Nora’s character is presented with proper references to the text, and Hopkins’ Torvald can impress the public with his coldness and definite snobbism typical for the men of upper-middle class in the 19th century.

Works Cited

A Doll’s House. 1973. Video file. 25 Nov. 2012. <>.

Ibsen, Henrik. “A Doll’s House”. Portable Legacies: Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Nonfiction. Ed. Jan Zlotnik Schmidt and Lynne Crockett. USA: Cengage Heinle, 2008. 167-231. Print.

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