Monday, January 25, 2010

Woolf at the Movies.

Jose here to commemorate the anniversary of Virginia Woolf's birth.



Woolf said that every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.
Since this isn't a literature site, what better way to examine this than the ways in which some of her works have been taken to the movies.

First up is Sally Potter's gender bending version of Orlando with Tilda Swinton as the title character. In this luscious reworking of Woolf's classic, Potter concentrates mostly on interpreting the author's groundbreaking prose and reflecting it through the film's sensuous visuals.
Few filmmakers would've been as brave as Potter and give in so much to the undeniable power of the text to a level where the film actually celebrates Woolf more than the director. Jane Campion's crush on John Keats in Bright Star comes to mind-in terms of literature taking over film so much-and if you haven't seen Orlando, what are you waiting for?

Even if at first glance she's only referred to in the title, the ghost of the British author hovers all over Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? her name is supposed to symbolize the fear of leading empty lives and existence out of illusion. While Edward Albee's play is notorious for its explosive nature (as opposed to Woolf's universe of inner conflict) it's feasible to say that the playwright's intention was precisely to make us wonder what would push us to release all those violent, damaging emotions from our minds.

Last but not least, today would be a good day as any, to re-watch Nicole Kidman's Academy Award winning performance as Woolf in The Hours.
Brilliant beyond the fake nose, Kidman has rarely been as introspective and haunting. She might've made one very controversial Oscar winner, but like Woolf's literature her performance doesn't fade, doesn't wither and probably will never grow old.

Are you a fan of Virginia's literature? Do you like how cinema has interpreted her?

16 comments:

MrJeffery said...

I love 'The Hours.' I can't believe how well it translated to film. The actors and Stephen Daldry all did an amazing job. The movie version of Mrs. Dalloway with Vanessa Redgrave is worth watching but I love the book much better. A really great Woolf book is A Room of One's Own.

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Chrisine said...

I like how the spam on here seems so Salvatore Name of the Rose."

However, long, live Orlando (the movie, the book, and the boy/girl his/herself.My most favorite under-appreciated movie of that year.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Actually I think today would be a good day to skip the Woolf-by-proxy adaptations/homages and just read one of her damn books. "Mrs. Dalloway" is probably slim enough to be read in a single day (especially if you live in Australia and it's a public holiday) and soul-expanding enough to change the way you approach life and the world.

Christine said...

I agree, Y Kant Goran Rite, although, again, I'd start with Orlando. Mrs. Dalloway is short, but a bit dense for someone who hasn't read a lot of Woolf. Actually, I'd start with the movie Orlando. You get a free bonus of Quentin Crisp!

jess said...

I still think Kidman's rendition of the fictional writer in Margot at the wedding is a more interesting and complex performance than the Woolf one.

Wayne said...

Haven't read any of Woolf's books myself, but read "The Hours" Definitely a haunting read. Kidman was exquisite, even though she won Julianne's Oscar. ;)

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

"Mrs. Dalloway" was actually the first Woolf novel I tackled and I found it pretty accessible, though that might be because I expected it to be really dense. I haven't read "Orlando" yet though I have no doubt that it is a work of genius (since Woolf = genius). I did catch the movie, many years ago (before I even knew it was a book first), and it's a pretty clever, haunting piece of work. So I suppose, if you aren't in any state to read today, you may as well just watch Orlando, yes.

Meantime, if we must talk Kidman, Margot and The Hours are both uncharacteristically solid, intelligent performances by one of my least favourite contemporary movie stars. I might need to revisit The Hours to ensure that I was impressed by the performance rather than the makeup, but I really respected how believavbly erratic and unglamourous she was in Margot. In fact, even though Kidman irritates me just by existing 90% of the time, when she goes ahead and tackles roles in Von Trier/Baumbach/Glazer movies, even if those movies might be better served by a more intelligent, disciplined actress, I cannot help but applaud her commitment to the important things about cinema.

Yancey said...

I haven't seen any "Mrs. Dalloway" film adaptations, but I had to plow my way through the novel in college. Loved the book and film to "The Hours" though, and I still adore Nicole's performance and Oscar win.

mrripley said...

I like kidmans performance too just wished she had won in supporting or in 01 for mr!

Victor said...

@mrripley
Kidman as supporting for Moulin Rouge! is probably the biggest category fraud I ever seen!!!
I agree that Kidman's Oscar should have Moulin Rouge! engraved on it but I just love her performance in The Hours.

NATHANIEL R said...

ORLANDO is one of the best books I've ever read. I love the movie too but reading the book was just ...gah... it's so brilliant. I have yet to tackled Mrs. Dalloway he said with great shame (though I've seen the movie, he says expounding the shame)

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Beau said...

I've yet to read any of Woolf, but I have read and seen The Hours (both are brilliant) as is the case with Swinton in Orlando. There's always that one performance that connects you to a performer, and that was mine with her. As she runs through the maze, I fell.

Seeing Yale Rep's production tonight; very curious, very hopeful.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Crap, I totally spaced on this: fail. I have an anthology of Woolf's work, so I guess you can call me obsessed. Although I can admire the sheer brilliance of Orlando I have a penchant for Night and Day which I really can't explain.

I wish Miranda Richardson would star in a biopic of Vanessa, she had a tragic life and was sooo good opposite NK in The Hours.

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