BOOKS & THE CULTURE A Movie of Their Own BY HAVEN IVERSON The Hours Directed by Stephen Daldry I n an August 1923 diary entry, Virginia Woolf wrote, ” I should say a good deal about “The Hours,” and my discovery; how I dig out beautiful caves behind my characters; I think that gives exactly what I want; humanity, humour, depth. The idea is that caves connect, and come to daylight at the present moment.” What she refers to as “The Hours,” of course, eventually became her novel Mrs. Dalloway, the inspiration behind the recent film written by playwright David Hare and directed by the Tony Award winning English theater director Stephen Daldry. Based on Michael Cunningham’s 1998 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, the film does much of what Virginia Woolf intended to do with Airs. Dal/mayconvey a sense of life’s essence by following several characters through the course of an ordinary modern day. Daldry’s film follows the interrelated stories of a day in the lives of the three women: Virginia Woolf \(Nicole writing Mrs.Dalloway in 1923, a Los Angeles housewife named Laura ing the novel in 1951, and Clarissa Vaughn, a book editor in Manhattan in The film opens with Virginia Woolf’s suicide by drowning. Her body drifts away under the Ouse River, Philip Glass’s music begins to rise, and off we go into the inner lives of each of the main characters. Though we can never know what Woolf was like on the day she began Mrs. Dalloway, Nicole Kidman chooses to play her in one of her more melancholy moods. Except for the characteristic sensual rise of an eyebrow, Kidman is virtually unrecognizable in her a prosthetic nose, and gently pulled back, gray-streaked hair. With downcast eyes, shoulders rotated forward, and a somber demeanor, she captures Woolf’s mental illnessin a way. Her portrayal of Woolf as she experiences debilitating headaches, hears voices, and wrestles with moments of panic is believable. But as much as Woolf was known for her depression, she was also known for her ebullience, wit, flights of fancy, teasing, and brilliant conversationwhich rarely appears in Kidman’s performance. She lacks Woolf’s edge and brittleness. Indeed, at 41, when she began writing the novel that would revolutionize modern fiction, Woolf was suffering far less than she was in her late 20s and early 30s. It was not until the onset of WWII that she began to enter another deeply depressive episode, causing her to end her life. Furthermore, when Kidman’s Woolf drowns herself, she looks porcelain and sweet, hardly like a 59-year-old woman trying to escape fits of madness. The scene doesn’t work, except as a metaphor for the river of the emotions that can pull a woman out of the “safe eddies of life.” From the opening scene with Virginia Woolf, a woman known for her strong disdain for domesticity, we flash forward to Laura Brown \(Julianne Mts. Dalloway. For Laura Brown, the novel is both an escape and a spur to action. Outwardly, her life does not seem too bad. She has a husband who adores her a doting son, and a comfortable, albeit unbearably sterile and manicured home. Moore has few lines of dialogue, but her haunting expressions convey a woman struggling between her sense of responsibility towards her family and her desire for a completely different life. Laura’s home with shades drawn and eerie yellow lighting looks vast and stagnant. Standing in the living room, she looks like a foreigner in her own home; with each passing moment she is wilting. In one of the movies more chilling scenes, Laura silently gazes at her 5-year-old son, unable to move. She knows that her husband, a simple and optimistic man, loves her. But he seems to misunderstand her completely, increasing her sense of aloneness. Flash-forward another fifty years and we meet Clarissa Vaughn \(the modern ready to throw a party for her ex-lover and dear friend Richard, played by Ed Harris, whose performance never manages to ring true. Richard is dying of AIDS. When he accuses Clarissa of being someone who “is always giving parties to cover up the silence,” she knows he is right. She is painfully sensitive and self-aware, a woman who sees the layers of meaning in everything and finds both pain and beauty in every sec 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3/14/03
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