|Index||4 reviews in total|
Glenda Jackson is superb in the title role. Ibsen's play "Hedda Gabler" gets a first-rate treatment in this adaption. Hedda is a restless, free-spirited and ruthless woman who enjoys playing with other people's lives and ultimately destroying them. Glenda Jackson gives the performance of her life in this movie. Peter Eyre gives an equal impressive supporting performance. Highly recommended for theater lovers.
Seriously, image quality of VHS is washed out, players stopped selling
like 20 yrs ago and not a not a small part of the charm of this
rendition of "Hedda Gabler" is in it's photography. Criterion release
sounds like a good venue for achievement as important as this one. If
whoever owns copyright absolutely refuses to make money :-) they should
just do a single pass digital scan and release it as "archive" material
as a cultural contribution to humanity.
Well thought out photography is actually part of the story telling rather than just a background and provides important atmospheric aspect that Ibsen would be proud of if he knew about cinema. That however is just the beginning since this is really Glenda Jackson's underrated masterpiece.
"Hedda Gabler" is a tough theatrical nut to crack and this rendition did just about everything right. Glenda Jackson and her director did theatrical production first with full scale Stanislavski process, and the result was much more consistent that any other film rendition of always elusive and still avant-garde play.
Jackson's Hedda is different enough from usual interpretations that spelling it out would be the actual spoiler. She doesn't try to elicit misplaced sympathy from the audience but gives you a naked Hedda with her cold hearted insanity out in the open. If you end up feeling sympathy for her you need an analyst :-) To that extent this rendition is not literary "naturalist" but operates on a slightly heightened ground that didn't exist as a concept at Ibsen's times but sits very well with his work.
While one wouldn't call this film the ultimate in "Hedda Gabler" (that would require the time and budget reserved for blockbusters) it provides very interesting angle and shows how many things can be done right with some careful thinking.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(Some spoilers, but as the play was written in 1890, it should be
'Hedda Gabler' is one of my all-time favourite plays, but I had never seen this version. I recently caught up with it on a secondhand VHS tape. It preserves, or rather, embalms, in a golden glow like Norwegian amber, Trevor Nunn's RSC production, which starred Glenda Jackson. I found it disappointing in comparison with Deborah Warner's 1993 production, with Fiona Shaw.
'Hedda' has beautiful photography (those amber sunsets!), settings, and costumes, but somehow lacks vitality. Some aspects of the acting have dated: some of the delivery seems a bit too arch at times, too self-conscious of being 'classic drama'. Yes, Ibsen was a 19C dramatist, and, of course, the script is a translation, but he aspired to naturalism: in this production I was conscious that I was watching a play, rather than eavesdropping on the lives of real, living people. The incidental music is overly 'romantic', especially when it accompanies the arrival of Ejlert Løvborg, silhouetted against the sunset. I do not think the film intended to satirise Hedda and Thea's romantic illusions about him at this point, but it was very hard to take him seriously after such an entrance. I understand why the designers, wishing to convey Hedda's domestic oppression, depicted the villa as over-cluttered and ornately decorated. Unfortunately, it made scenes too 'busy' visually: it was too easy for the eye to wander from the actors and get lost among various fascinating bits of Victorian bric-à-brac and furniture. Also, the Tesmans have only recently moved in; this house looked far too 'lived in'.
Any production of 'Hedda Gabler' depends heavily on its lead actress. Despite her Oscar nomination, Glenda Jackson did not completely convince me as Hedda. The character can be infuriating, but she is also heartbreaking, like Eustacia Vye in Hardy's 'Return of the Native'. Glenda, fine actress though she is, simply did not move me. Nunn's production had clearly decided to adopt the hard, brittle "ice-queen" interpretation of Hedda; as a result, I did not sense her underlying unhappiness and desperation, which Fiona Shaw conveyed so effectively. Poised and assured, this Hedda did not strike me as a woman falling towards suicide: I would have expected someone of her mettle to shoot the blackmailing Judge Brack (Timothy West), not herself, and run off with Thea, along the lines of 'Thelma & Louise' or (more successfully) Corky and Violet in 'Bound'! Indeed, the most intriguing aspect of her performance was when she reminds Thea Elvsted (Jennie Linden) of her schoolgirl threat to burn her hair off - leaning forward as if to kiss her, but drawing back at the last moment, more than once. This slightly Sapphic note suits Hedda: she is a General's daughter, motherless; she rides and shoots, but has never mastered all 19C conventions of domesticated 'femininity'; she wants to hear about men's adventures; she does not want to be a mother. One of Ibsen's great insights in 'The Doll's House' (1879), as well as in this play, is that society's definition of 'femininity' is largely a cultural construct - learned behaviour, not innate or 'natural' to every woman. Hedda has missed some of the lessons, but is still expected to fit the template; at the same time, she cannot break free of it. I have often thought that she and Thea would have fared better together, without the hopeless men!
Patrick Stewart was dashing as Løvborg, although it was hard to imagine him ever having been drunken and dissolute: he lacked loucheness. This was not his fault as an actor (I have seen him in a range of roles), more a reflection of the reined-in nature of this production - competent but playing it safe and 'classic'. Neither he nor Timothy West's Brack exuded the necessary sexual danger. The low-key approach best suited the 'nice' characters: Jennie Linden's Thea, Constance Chapman's Aunt Juliane, and Pam St Clement's awkward, well-meaning Berte.
The truly outstanding performance in the film was that of Peter Eyre, as Jørgen Tesman (here called George). I would go so far as to say that his was the definitive filmed portrayal of the character. He was perfect: every inch the pedantic, eager PhD scholar brought up by maiden aunts. I felt I knew him: I have lived in halls of residence with postgrads just like him. Tesman is good-natured enough, a likable geek - but he really should never have married, and certainly not a bride like General Gabler's daughter!
I would like to see this film released on DVD, to capture the fine detail of the costumes and settings, but I recommend the 1993 BBC production, directed by Deborah Warner, for a more profound portrayal of Hedda herself.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't claim to have seen every screen adaptation of Ibsen's classic
about the fatally bored and frustrated Victorian-era housewife, but of
those that I have seen (Diana Rigg, Ingrid Bergman) Glenda Jackson's
Hedda Gabler is a work to behold. This is a film featuring many of the
cast members from the somewhat controversial Royal Shakespeare Company
stage production and it is the best adaptation and rendering of the
play that I have ever seen. Considered controversial for its
translation and direction which dared to emphasize some of the play's
comic elements (Hedda's rather endearingly obtuse husband, her
manipulative toying with rival Thea Elvsted) while almost daring
audiences to feel sympathy for its heroine, it nonetheless is one of
the most vital and emotionally accessible versions I've seen.
As person who longs to step out of the constraints that society demands of women during this time, Hedda's tragedy is that she lacks the courage to set herself free and is embittered about her own fear of scandal and worry over what others may think. Glenda Jackson conveys Hedda Gabler's almost mercurial changes of mood in such vivid strokes that it is often difficult to watch the other actors on the screen. One senses the tension that seems so close to erupting behind the laced up clothing that is envisioned to be as much of a trap as her over-furnished home and dead-end marriage. Though she may not be the most sympathetic of heroines, as portrayed by Jackson, this Gabler is never less than believable. She quests power over her own life, and, if failing in that , is willing to do the most heinous things in order to feel some control over someone else's. The drama lies in witnessing her consistently working at cross purposes with her goals due to a basic inability to take a risk, emotionally or physically. Hedda is the absolute architect of her downfall.
The production is a handsome one (very Merchant-Ivory) and extremely well cast. It's especially pleasurable to see "Star Trek"'s Patrick Stuart with hair, and to have Glenda Jackson and Jennie Linden reunited after their memorable pairing in Ken Russell's "Women in Love." Still, for me, Glenda Jackson is something close to miraculous here. So many complex emotions play across her face and so much intelligence and craft is a part of her performance. Truly, she gives such ingenious and lively interpretations to scenes and line readings that each time I see this film I discover more. (As a side note: I was so taken by her performance here that many years ago when she came to town as Martha in Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" I almost gave myself a nosebleed in anticipation to the experience I anticipated. Imagine my stunned surprise when I saw MY Hedda Gabler give one of the most strident and one-note performances I'd ever seen by an actress. She couldn't touch Elizabeth Taylor in the film adaptation.)
It's a pity this film isn't on DVD. I had to buy an EBay VHS. Any fan of strong female performances shouldn't have to miss out on Glenda Jackson here. Watching her is like getting a master class in acting.
|External reviews||Plot keywords||Main details|
|Your user reviews||Your vote history|