Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Interview: League of Nations
Industrial: 20/20 Hindsight
Organising: On The Buses
Unions: National Focus
History: The Banner Room
International: The Slaughter Continues
Legal: A Legal Case For War?
Culture: Singing For The People
Review: The Hours
Poetry: I Wanna Bomb Saddam
Satire: Diuretic Makes Warne's Excuses Look Thin
The Locker Room
Re-considering The Accord
Strangers in the House
Nursing Home Concerns
Not so long ago in the history of the western world women were given little choice but to bow down to the desires of men. Forsaking independence to perfect a role designed to keep them in their place while nurturing their spouses, many women saw no other way. But for a brave few, submission was never an option.
Stephen Daldry's The Hours follows the lives of three women linked by Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs Dalloway and a non-negotiable urge to live life on their own terms.
It begins at a time in Virginia's own life when she is considering suicide as the only alternative to granting her husband's wish that she stay in an isolated country cottage until her mental illness stabilises. Though his request stems only from his desire to keep her 'out of harm's way', Virginia refuses to yield.
"That which keeps us safe keeps us from life," she argues and this is largely the message behind the novel Virginia sporadically pens in between suicide attempts. It is also the message confronted by each character in the film as they are reached in various ways by Virginia's book.
The life of one 1950s housewife is thrown into question when, partway through reading Mrs Dalloway, she is finally able to identify the source of her own discontent.
On the surface her life is perfect. Her husband has returned from war and, committed to saving her from a solitary life, provides every material symbol of success. For her part she is consumed with her 'duty' of being the perfect wife and mother, and with creating token symbols of domestic bliss. The men have been through enough in the war, she declares, and now they deserve ... us.
Her aim is to please her man, but no reward and no show of appreciation can ever bring her fulfillment because her heart is not in it and she can no longer pretend.
The film skips between her story, Virginia's, and the life of another woman, who is living life on her own terms in modern day America. She too is considering the message behind Mrs Dalloway and asking inevitable questions about her own life.
How much of her life is she truly 'choosing', how much is dictated by expectation and conditioning, and how much of it is simply going through the motions in search of some great reward? And what of the hours in between?
As she prepares a party for a friend she confronts not for the first time in her life the tendency for token gestures to distract from the truth and provide a shield against experiencing genuine intimacy.
"Who is this party for anyway?" she is asked, reminding her again that illusions of love do no one any favours and bring no ultimate comfort in the end.
This is a mature film which never insults its audience through sentimentality or base superficiality. Designed to reach even the most numb-ified of hearts, The Hours is a subtle but powerful comment on human relationships that rings true throughout the ages.
Starring: Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and a prosthetic nose.
Rating: four out of five stars. (women who won't be kept down)
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