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An Assessment of Henrik Ibsen’s Play, a Doll's House Vs. the Film Adaptation

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Throughout the realm of literature, detail is most prominent in written works such as play script, novels, etc. Often times, much of the intricacy of written language vanishes when converting text into a film. In Henrik Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House, extreme detail showcases aspects of character personalities as well as subtle physical actions that are more difficult for an individual to notice when the features are not written out. Ibsen’s play was converted into a movie in the early 1970’s, resulting in a loss of detail and alterations in events, dialogue, and various other qualities; however, both the play and the film share a few key similarities.

In the first scene of A Doll’s House, differences occur when comparing the play to the film adaptation. The play begins with a somewhat lengthy description of the setting as well as the first character introduced, Nora, entering her home from the back door. In contrast, the movie begins with Nora riding in a horse-drawn sled. Another notable difference can be observed when the character Ellen is introduced. The initial words spoken in the play are from Nora to Ellen; however, in the film, Ellen remains unspoken to for quite some time. Some similarities combine with differences to create semi-separate versions of the story; for example, the play describes Torvald leaving his office to speak with Nora as well as Nora hiding macaroons in her pocket. Conversely, Nora enters Torvald’s office in the film and she hides the macaroons in their grand piano.

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Exclusions of dialogue present themselves in the first scene of the movie when Torvald completely skips explaining why Nora spends a plethora of money. The play describes Torvald offering Nora an in-depth explanation for her spending habits; he believes it is simply heredity or “in the blood”. Another rather large dialogue alteration occurs when Nora, in the play, vaguely speaks of purchasing presents. In the film, however, Nora highlights the amazing qualities of the gifts she has bought for the children. Furthermore, slight to major alterations dialogue alterations can be noted throughout the entire first scene; for instance, in the play, Torvald refers to Nora as his “twittering lark” whereas the film displays an altered version- “little skylark”.

In addition to changes in events as well as dialogue, similarities arise between the play and the movie. Torvald and Nora, in both the play and film, argue over money, discuss macaroons, and highlight the greediness of Nora and the quality of appeasement displayed by Torvald. Also, keywords such as “lark”, “squirrel”, and “New Year’s” are emphasized in both versions of the story due to their significance. Essential parts of dialogue remain present, such as Torvald accusing Nora of “enjoying confections”, Nora distinctly telling Torvald he is “not allowed to see [the presents] until this evening”, and Mrs. Linden stating “I see you don’t recognize me” when first encountering Nora.

Overall, the similarities and differences showcased in the play and film allow the story to be told in two separately unique ways. The majority of significant details in events and discussions between characters were conveyed identically in the play and film. Nora’s obsession with money, Torvald’s ignorance towards Nora’s monetary affairs, and the importance of Christmas to the characters all are portrayed very clearly in the play and movie. Although alterations from the play to the film force the story to lose some of its depth as well as intricacy, the ultimate result of the translation from text to visual adaptation proves to be a successful literary journey.

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