Monday, March 25, 2013

So I watched The Hours...

Last night, I watched The Hours per multiple recommendations, including one from our dear Professor Fernald. I was taken aback by the quality of the film, half expecting to be uncomfortable with the film's treatment of Woolf's work given the quantity we have been consuming since January. I find this frequently happens with films based on books, but not this time. For 1 hour and 54 minutes I was proved wrong. What struck me first was the music; a stirring, ambiguously emotive piano which carried the opening credits and many scenes following. Just as I noticed how much I was enjoying the music, the credits read "Music by Phillip Glass" and I was no longer surprised by how much I was enjoying it. I have seen Phillip Glass live in concert at Carnegie Hall (amazingly I found a link to a song from the exact concert), and while some consider him gimmicky or overly experimental, I have always enjoyed his music.  Being neither a film, nor a music critic I will spare you the rest of my opinions, and instead attempt to address what The Hours has done with Mrs. Dalloway, and an autobiographical look into Woolf's life.

One of the strengths I found in the movie, is that it did not attempt to exactly recreate the narrative/plot/characters from Mrs. Dalloway. Naturally, I found myself continually trying to pinpoint what exactly I recognized from Woolf's writing, and what little I know about her life. It was distracting at first, until I realized that was not the point. Even after I was able to let go of this analysis, I never fully understood Meryl Streep as the modern day Mrs. Dalloway. Was this her actual name? Did Richard, the writer, play into this coincidence? Were we supposed to believe none of the characters in the 2001 plot line were ever thinking of Woolf's work? Was the intrigue in all the connections that none of them noticed? I find it hard to believe that modern day Richard cited a line from Virginia Woolf's suicide note to Leonard just before he jumped out the window coincidentally (a moment which had me crying two tears out of one eye as my boyfriend fumbled around my apartment uncomfortably...I tried to explain). There must be something I didn't fully understand, and I would love to watch it again soon and figure it out.

There are countless moments in the film I would love to draw attention to, but what I thought most demonstrated how well David Hare and Stephen Daldry understood Woolf's ideas about women, was when Mrs. Brown came to Mrs. Dalloway's apartment after Richard's suicide. The conversation between these two women, and the understanding which transpired between them perfectly incapsulated the question of a woman's choice (or lack thereof) which is understandable from 1930 to today (not to mention passing the Bechdel Test with flying colors). It was incredibly moving to hear Mrs. Brown speak of the choice she didn't have, not necessarily as a woman, but as someone facing what they think they cannot bear, and therefore having to chose between life and death. I still don't think I fully understand Mrs. Dalloway's death in Woolf's novel, Lucy's death, or even Mrs. Ramsey's--but for some reason, I feel much more than ever that I understand Woolf's death, as much as anyone can understand the taking of one's own life.

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