The 1992 BBC Version of A Doll’s House
Nothing wrong with this 1992 David Thacker directed version. Nothing at all. The one on YouTube comes with Portuguese subtitles, but there’s nothing especially wrong with that either.
This is a very patient, very careful staging that leaves nothing out. In deference to the medium, we see rather more rooms than we would do in a stage performance and the camera swoops a fair bit from time to time. At times this mobility is subversive of the very claustrophobia implied by the very title of the play.
The outside door that slams is at the bottom of a spiral staircase. It’s one of the best slams I’ve heard – not loud but resonant.
I found myself oddly moved by the Linde- Krogstad romance, as played by Geraldine James and David Calder. It occurs to me that the play could be re-organised to make the Linde-Krogstad story more central, until they became the romantic leads of a redemptive drama. Such a re-organisation would be far more acceptable to nineteenth-century tastes, and maybe to twenty-first century tastes too. Linde and Krogstad are characters who know what most writers know – that the truth will set you free. But Ibsen isn’t “most writers”. He knows that it won’t.
It’s always nice to see Patrick Malahide. For a while in the 1980s, he was the funniest thing in Minder, playing the obsessive police officer determined to put Arfur behing bars. More recently, he played the Vikingish Lord of the Iron Islands Balon Greyjoy, forced to unwrap his son’s severed penis. Here he plays the dying Dr Rand. In olden times, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, and the flirtatious discussion of hosiery in his tender scene with Nora is something to behold.
Trevor Eve is suitably slappable as the infanticising Helmer. The question of whether to refer to characters by their first or second name is, as Ibsen well knows, extremely political – and one of his chief problems with employing Krogstad (or Nils) is Krogstad’s habitual use of the familiar first name. Trevor Eve is exquisitely dressed – in some ways he is the most beautiful thing in the production. It is critical, of course, that Torvald is not an especially “bad guy”, that he’s no worse than any other unreflecting instrument of patriarchal perpetuation. No better either though…
Juliet Stevenson is the character who talks to herself. It’s an issue with so-called “realist” drama, that people shouldn’t, on the whole talk to themselves, that they should find someone to talk to if they are to give any kind of an account of themselves. But people do of course talk to themselves. Everybody does it, don’t they? So long as talking to oneself doesn’t develop into a full blown argument, talking to oneself is no “first sign of madness” as we used to be told as kids. Juliet Stevenson’s solitary fragments denote desperation. Nobody does truly madly deeply desperate quite like Juliet Stevenson. Did she ever play Molly Bloom? She’s certainly got the stream of consciousness for it?
Joyce was fascinated by Ibsen. And he fell in love with a woman called Nora.