Whether or not Reynolds actually wore Brut I have no way of knowing, but somebody in the 70s must have liked it an awful lot, because for a brief time during that decade the Faberge cosmetics company (the makers of Brut) got into the business of making movies. It makes me smile to think that such a foul-smelling after-shave was responsible for one of my all-time favorite Glenda Jackson films: Hedda.
This film adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's 1890 play, Hedda Gabler, was based on a 1975 Royal Shakespeare Company stage production that featured virtually the entire cast of the motion picture under the direction of Trevor Nunn (who directed the film, as well).
Being a fellow of a somewhat dreamy nature myself, I find I'm drawn to narratives with protagonists whose lives are motivated (and sometimes ultimately undone) by their dreams. Hedda Gabler, like Flaubert's Madame Bovary or Clyde Griffiths in Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, is a individual who believes in romantic ideals. Superficially perhaps, but what they all have in common is that they have bought into the myths whole-heartedly, and, due to some flaw in their personalities, suffer because of an inability to convert those dreams into any kind of realistic way of living in and relating to the world.
|Glenda Jackson as Hedda Gabler|
|Jennie Linden (Jackson's Women in Love so-star)as rival, Thea Elvsted|
|Timothy West as the sinister and lascivious Judge Brack|
Hedda - desperately bored...again
Hedda attempts to wedge herself between a rival and a former suitor
"For once in my life I want to have power over somebody's fate."
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM
Who among us hasn't, at one time or another, felt the frustration of living a life we perceive as growing increasingly short of options as we age? It is easy to feel trapped and imprisoned by the choices we've made if we tend to look outside of ourselves and fail to recognize that change is possible only through self-reflection. Hedda dramatizes the notion that it is not our external limitations that torment us, but rather the bars and prison walls born of fear and selfishness we construct in our minds. Hedda is forever going on about how bored she is and how limited are her life's prospects. Yet, by way of contrast, we observe that her friend & rival, the meek Thea Elvsted, is, in turning her back on social convention and abandoning her concern for what others think of her (terrifyingly unimaginable to Hedda), is infinitely braver (and freer) than Hedda could ever hope to be.
General Gabler's pistols
Hedda's unfeminine longing for independence is phallically
symbolized by the firearms she must keep under lock and key
Many years ago I saw Glenda Jackson in a Los Angeles stage production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and thought she was rather awful in it, but onscreen, Glenda Jackson has rarely ever made a misstep. As Hedda Gabler, Jackson commands the screen and never relinquishes it for a second. Like the stars of yesterday (Davis, Hepburn, Crawford), Jackson makes you watch her and pays back your attention by serving up a character that is entertainingly multidimensional and contradictory. Hers is a cunning performance of wit and subtlety that makes the deeply neurotic heroine both frightening and touching.
Jackson, already a two-time Academy Award winner for Best Actress, received her fourth (and final) Oscar nomination for Hedda. But of course, as Maggie Smith so hilariously pointed out in the 1977 movie "California Suite", "...she's nominated every goddamned year!"
Hedda - "I think I'll burn your hair off after all!"
THE STUFF OF FANTASY
I love how the film is shot in sumptuous gold-brown tones that emphasize Hedda's image of herself as a creature trapped in a gilded cage. This theme is further promoted in the elaborate & constrictive women's clothing of the time and in the overtly ornate trappings of her smotheringly cluttered home. Scene after scene ends with Hedda clenching her fists or fairly trembling with rage as she fails to find any avenue of escape from a world that seems intent on imprisoning her.
In the 1955 film The Seven-Year Itch there's a scene where Marilyn Monroe, after seeing the movie The Creature from the Black Lagoon, remarks that she felt sorry for the monster because, underneath it all, it just wanted to be loved. Well, I have a similar feeling about Hedda Gabler. Gabler is very much a monster. Yet you can't help feeling a little sorry for her when, despite all of her schemes, her world starts crumbling in around her and her worst fears (someone having power over her) become realized .
It's difficult not to feel the pain that lies behind Hedda's monstrous behavior because most of us know that there are few things more soul-killing than to harbor a desire for something you're too afraid to pursue.
|"I will be silent in future."|
Copyright © Ken Anderson