• Publication date: July 31, 2010

Mrs Dalloway Mrs Dalloway

Virginia Woolf is considered by many to be one of the twentieth-century's greatest ...

Virginia Woolf is considered by many to be one of the twentieth-century's greatest authors. Among her respected works is Mrs. Dalloway, a novel written in a stream of conscious fashion, a style then just pioneered by fellow wordsmith James Joyce. The task of transferring Woolf's psychologically and socially complex themes and characters into a film was not an easy one, though director Marleen Gorris does an outstanding job. Vanessa Redgrave both portrays the older Clarissa Dalloway and serves as the picture's narrator; the lovely Natascha McElhone depicts the character’s older iteration. Like the book, the film begins as Mrs. Dalloway walks through the city on an unusually picturesque spring day. Her task for the morning is to locate the most beautiful flowers possible for an upcoming gala, whose guests will include nearly all of Dalloway's early, and dearest acquaintances. As she walks the weather prompts her to remember a similar day many decades prior, a day in which all of her friends were present. More importantly though, Mrs. Dalloway laments the choices she made years ago. Rather than fulfill a life of adventure and freedom with a man she loved and who likewise adored her, the matured Dalloway married a very ordinary and procedural politician, essentially choosing stability and social stature above ultimate happiness. She also reminisces upon her childhood friend, Sally (Sarah Badel; Margaret Tyzack in later years) a wild, foul-mouthed young girl with an enormous sense of adventure. Sally would subsequently marry Dalloway's childhood sweetheart mentioned above, Peter (Alan Cox), though even 30 years later he regrets allowing Clarissa to slip through his fingers. While Dalloway secretly regrets the path she took in life, Sally certainly does not. The uninhibited girl Clarissa once knew has transformed into a refined socialite, now bearing the title of Lady Rosseter. An unspoken, undeveloped sensual relationship continues to exist between the two women however, one that erupted in a kiss many years prior. This adds a second, though subtle potential path of lesbianism that Dolloway has left buried and unexplored. A second, seemingly unrelated story is interwoven with Dalloway's. Septimus (Rupert Graves of Death at a Funeral) is a World War I veteran who witnessed his best friend and comrade die at war. The incident left him mentally shaken, and subject to random hallucinations. Despite his wife’s unwavering love he lived as a tortured man, who fearing institutionalization, leaped from a window and to his death. Viewers might deduce that Septimus is a reflection of Woolf’s own psychological troubles, while Clarissa exemplifies her real-life desire for unrealized exploration. Fans of Woolf’s seminal work, which Time magazine declared amongst the top novels of the twentieth-century, should find little flaw in the book’s film adaptation. Newcomers to the author’s stories should likewise be pleased, as a literary mind is not required to appreciate the picture.