Drama: “A Dolls House,” by Henrik Ibsen


The one play that seriously endured criticism and lasted much longer than anticipated was Henrik Ibsens Dolls house. For some strange reason, people continue to read this play and directors/producers enjoy enthralling the viewers with cinematic versions of this play. And if that is not enough, the play is regularly played on Broadway. There indeed is an enduring quality about the play that gives it a universal meaning and every woman especially married ones feel they can relate to the central character Nora. But as with all cinematic adaptations of play, Dolls houses various versions have shown inconsistencies in the depiction of the central character. The husbands character has remained more or less static primarily because it doesnt undergo a transformation in the play and basically doesnt evolve. On the other hand, Noras character takes a 360-degree turn at the end and we see a new completely transformed version of once subdued wife of Helmer.

The story is brilliantly built up for the twist near the end of the play. Nora, the simple and rather naive wife, of Torvald Helmer considers herself lucky to have married a man who adores her and whom she loves dearly. On the surface, everything is absolutely as it should be, two people are deeply in love with each other and they are leading a peaceful life. But it is when the story progresses that one realizes how the male leading character is taking advantage of his wife. Poor Nora is always made to believe that she should consider herself fortunate for having found a husband as perfect as Helmer and Nora worships him believing that he was like a god who could not do anything wrong. She is of the view that her husband is the perfect example of a man with upright shining morals, as Helmer was never seen doing anything socially unacceptable.

But as the story progresses, we notice dramatic contradictions in the character of Helmer unfolds slowly and gradually.

The wife realizes that the on man whom everyone despised in the area was not being thrown out of the bank where her husband was the supervisor because of his immoral character but because her husband had some old grudge against him. Nils Krogstad was a man with a rather checkered past but he was trying to make up for his past mistakes. A job at the bank was his first step in the right direction but Helmer, for his own selfish reason, tries to throw him out of work.

That is when Nora realizes how naive and absolutely foolish she had been about her husband and her duties. “You and father have done me a great wrong. Its your fault that my life has been wasted.”

In the 1973 film version of the play, Claire Bloom played the central lead role of Nora while Anthony Hopkins played Helmer. Patrick Garland directed the movie and Christopher Hampton wrote its screenplay. This was a time when womens movement was at its peak so the director knew the film version would appeal to the people. In the same year, Jane Fonda starred in the competing cinematic version of this play making it harder for people to understand which portrayal of Nora was more faithful to the actual character. Hilard Elkins produced the film who was incidentally also Claire Blooms husband.

The screenplay by Hampton was extremely close to the actual play since screenwriter had already worked on the stage version of the play. The film was nicely shot though there were some additions and subtractions that were meant to highlight the final message. The film is restricted to the interiors and manages to capture the one-day action of the play properly. Camera shots move from one room to another but mainly remain within the interiors of the house, and the director chose to add a Christmas ball scene too where Nora is shown dancing the.