and of her day, no matter how subtle. Watching her unravel on screen can be frustrating; you almost want to jump into the screen and pinch her to wake up arid appreciate her life. But Streep is an actress capable of capturing the most complex of psychological truths from the simplest of moments.Thanks to her, we realize that Clarissa is so distraught precisely because there is love and promise in her life: She sees the fragility of life in her friend; her sadness is almost bittersweet. The theme of death and suicide weave through all three stories. When Woolf drowns, we know that her voice and her fiction will live on. Her own suicide is mirrored in the death of Richard, who, after looking at a picture of his mother, lets himself fall from a window while curled up in a fetal position. Indeed, in real life, Woolf tried to kill herself by flinging herself from a window, but survived because the fall was too close to the ground. When Laura Brown ponders her own suicide, we see water flood around her, encompassing her body, reminiscent of Woolf’s own drowning. Laura has checked herself into a hotel room and I could not help but think of Woolf’s feminist piece,”A Room of One’s Own.” In that essay she writes about how women need their own room, their own space, to express themselves creatively and to, essentially, be themselves. Laura Brown does not have a room of her own, real or metaphorical. She finally finds that space in a hotel room where, ironically, she is considering suicide. All three leading women do a marvelous job portraying characters whose inner feelings drive the film. Although Kidman lacks the command and edge of Virginia Woolf, she still gives a deeply moving performance. But some of the finest performances come from the supporting cast. Stephen Dillane as Leonard Woolf is outstanding as a man who must live with the agony of loving someone who is mentally ill. At first he seems to serve as merely her warden, but as the film progresses we see that his behavior is not about wanting to control his wife, it’s about love. We believe him when he says that he has arranged for them to live outside of London for her benefit. As he tries to fight back the tears, Leonard reveals the deep angst experienced by the partners of the mentally ill. Toni Collette gives a riveting performance as Laura’s neighbor, another angst-ridden woman, but one who has built her life around disguising her difficulties. Indeed, the film is an often somber reminder of the impermanence and fragility of life. As the credits rolled, I laughed in relief when I overheard a man in the seat behind me say that the film made him want to “open up a vein.” Yet I can’t help but think that he missed the point entirely. Ultimately, The Hours is redeeming. All three stories, lush with flowers, green grass, and gauzy sunlight, seem to have been filmed in spring. And with each of the three leading women, we witness a kiss that punctuates and gives hope for each woman’s story. In one of the few dark-lit scenes in the film, Leonard Woolf asks Virginia why one of the characters in Mrs. Dalloway must die. “Someone has to die,” she says, “that the rest of us should value life more.” Here lies the message of the film:The value and beauty of life does not have to occur in its largest moments; rather they can occur anywhere. It’s the essence of Woolf’s fiction. Both Virginia Woolf and The Hours remind us to open our eyes wider and notice the subtle hints of joy that surround everyday life. Haven Iverson is is a ,fellow at the Michener Center_for Writers at the University ofTexas at Austin. 3/14/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.