Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom, 1975. Bowden Productions Limited. Screenplay by Trevor Nunn, based on the play Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen. by Douglas Slocombe. Produced by Robert Enders. Music by Laurie Johnson. Production Design by Ted Tester. Costume Design by John Napier. Film Editing by Peter Tanner. Academy Awards 1975. Golden Globe Awards 1975.
The Royal Shakespeare Company production is transferred to film with essentially the same cast and richly satisfying results by director Trevor Nunn. He also provides a smooth, beautifully written translation of the Ibsen play that posits newly married Glenda Jackson against the boredom that her world has to offer. Her husband (Peter Eyre) is an underachieving scholar who arouses no passion, her only other distraction a doddering aunt who visits them only to grate on Jackson’s nerves. Meanwhile, a lovestruck acquaintance (Jennie Linden, Jackson’s sister in Women In Love) shows up and, through discussing her concern over a sexy writer with a bad social reputation (Patrick Stewart in his film debut), reveals herself to be madly in love with him. Jackson is actually Stewart’s former lover, and his eventual appearance on the scene, new book in hand, breaks through the tedium of her married life and inspires a sudden desire to manipulate everyone around her. This then sets forth a ticking time bomb of a dramatic situation that, despite being confined to a small space, never feels like a straight translation of a stage play. Nunn uses camera angles and editing as much to his advantage as possible, but knows that the writing is so strong that it does not need much decoration, and that focusing on Jackson’s sharp expressions and reactions (her face could cut glass) provides plenty of charismatic tension.