Cuyahoga River

Cuyahoga River
Cuyahoga River in the Valley

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Hours--A Movie based on Michael Cunningham's Book

The Cleveland International Film Festival showed "The Hours" and honored Michael Cunningham for the success of a book made into a movie. When I found out the book was inspired by Virginia Wolf's "Mrs. Dalloway," I had to see it.

Mrs. Dalloway and Virginia Woolf, a fictional character and and the creator, are intelligently and thoughtfully interwoven in the movie “The Hours.” Add another element--the effect of a work of art on the vulnerable psyche--and the movie becomes a rich, moving, and sad tapestry of the lives of three women.

The book of the same name, written by acclaimed writer Michael Cunningham, bears the working title of “The Hours.” The hours drip by for Woolf’s protagonist, Mrs. Dalloway, during a life of boredom and inconsequence.

The tortured life of the mentally ill but artistically solid Virginia Woolf, as brilliantly portrayed by Nicole Kidman, is the story of the writer. The second story spotlights a 1950s Mrs. Dalloway (portrayed by Julianne Moore) who lives a doll’s existence under the constant vigilance of her sentry son with a husband who sees her as a beautiful object; the sad tale ends when she fails to commit suicide even while knowing life will be unbearable. The third plot line opens on Clarissa's day while she plans a party for her former poet lover, to whom she’s devoted and who is dying of AIDs—she’s the modern-day Mrs. Dalloway who finally figures out her own life has been on hold. Ed Harris is also wonderful as Clarissa’s ex-lover and best friend.

The dialogue between Virginia and Leonard Woolf and between Clarissa and Richard is wrenching and deeply real. Michael Cunningham wrote a novel based on Virginia Woolf’s book and in doing so explored the inner life of a troubled story master, the effects of the storyteller’s work on others, and how Mrs. Dalloway's day would unfold in today’s New York City. The movie does the book justice, and is probably better than the book.

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