George and Martha are a middle aged married couple, whose charged relationship is defined by vitriolic verbal battles, which underlies what seems like an emotional dependence upon each other. This verbal abuse is fueled by an excessive consumption of alcohol. George being an associate History professor in a New Carthage university where Martha's father is the President adds an extra dimension to their relationship. Late one Saturday evening after a faculty mixer, Martha invites Nick and Honey, an ambitious young Biology professor new to the university and his mousy wife, over for a nightcap. As the evening progresses, Nick and Honey, plied with more alcohol, get caught up in George and Martha's games of needing to hurt each other and everyone around them. The ultimate abuse comes in the form of talk of George and Martha's unseen sixteen year old son, whose birthday is the following day. Written by
Mike Nichols and his former comedy partner Elaine May co-starred as George and Martha in a stage production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Long Wharf Theatre in 1980. See more »
When George and Nick are outside talking under the large tree, George pours a small amount of bourbon into Nick's glass. A second later, we see the glass has much more bourbon in it than was originally poured. See more »
Ailing couple George (Burton) and Martha (Taylor) invite a young couple over for a late-night drink - much to quiet and repressed George's annoyance - and what starts off as a twisted game by sultry Martha to annoy her husband and get her way with young stud Nick (George Segal) ends up in a horrific duel of wits.
Adapted from the play and boasting very few locations, "Virginia Woolf" is notable for many unsuspected reasons. Designed for the stage, the film makes the story uniquely cinematic and tense, amped up by stunning photography (in Black and White, a daring choice in 1966). The younger leads are superb, but Burton and Taylor still manage to walk away with film, giving stunning renditions of the world's most demented couple. They make the surreal dialogue hurt and touch in ways never thought possible.
Though there are countless reasons to recommend this jewel of a film, there are also reasons why one would wish to avoid it. This is the kind of film that makes you feel like having a showing (or a very concentrated drink) to wash away the grit and human evil and pain absorbed. You'll feel dirty, but in a way you'll also feel enlightened: that a small character film can carry more punch than any explosion-packed blockbuster out there is a thing of beauty indeed!
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