The Hours

The Hours (2002)

1. Analysis of the Book. The Hours is a book written in 1998 by Michael Cunningham. It draws a great deal from the book Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. First, it follows a similar stream of consciousness style of writing. Second, it follows one of the themes of the book: that a day is a microcosm which captures the beauty of an entire lifetime. The lives of three women, in three different time periods (1923, 1949, and 2001), and in three different locations (England, California, New York) are the focus of the novel. All three women are somehow tied to the novel, Mrs. Dalloway. In the case of Virginia Wolfe, she is overwhelmed both by the task of writing the novel, and with a debilitating mental illness resulting in her suicide. The other two characters are deeply affected by the novel, and, additionally, work through a number of emotionally debilitating experiences similar to what might be found in Mrs. Dalloway. All three women have to deal with suicide. The novel concentrates heavily on themes such as depression, lesbianism, gender, emotional dependence, love, friendship, death and suicide. The title of the book, The Hours is drawn from the original title for Mrs. Dalloway.

2. Analysis of the Film. The Hours is a film made in 2002 starring a very big name, high profile cast (Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, etc.). It is based upon a book (also titled The Hours) that, in turn, centers on another book, Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf. The lives of three women (played by Kidman, Streep, and Moore), in three different time periods (early 20th century, mid 20th century, and current day), and in three different locations (England, California, New York) are the focus of the movie. The women, like the book of the same name, are tied to the novel, Mrs. Dalloway. In the case of Kidman’s character (Virginia Wolfe), she is overwhelmed both by the task of writing the novel, and her debilitating mental illness. The other two characters are deeply affected by the novel, and, additionally, work through a number of emotionally debilitating experiences, again, likes the book. The movie concentrates heavily on themes such as depression, lesbianism, gender, emotional dependence, love, friendship, death and suicide.

3. Analysis of the Adaptation. The adaptation of the film remains true to the book. It captures an accurate portrayal of the various characters from the book (due in no small part to the acting of Streep, Kidman, and Moore). The film successfully attempts to touch on the novels themes of sexuality (lesbianism). Each of the women is “discovering” these feelings at different times, and for two of them, at times when such issues were not broached publicly.  The film also successfully addresses the issue of mental illness. It examines the same dilemmas for all three women, but looks at them through the perspective of different time periods. The film adapts the book well by utilizing flashbacks and cinematography to capture the feel of the novel. Furthermore, it accurately utilizes wardrobes from the period to imitate a feel for the time. Finally, the outfits it chooses for Virginia Woolf were wall chosen, and seem influenced by the pieces she wore in various photographs taken of her.

4. Online Research of the Film. The three online sources I found in relation to The Hours include:

http://www.ethesis.net/Dalloway/Dalloway.html   involves a fairly comprehensive analysis of the movie in comparison to the book. Actually, it begins as an analysis of the concept of time in both Mrs. Dalloway and in the movie The Hours. Yet, it transitions into an analysis of both books, The Hours and Mrs. Dalloway. The website has a great deal of relevance to the first critical evaluation question regarding the title of the film, The Hours, what it refers to, what is its significance and what theme or themes it suggests.

http://www.enotes.com/hours/q-and-a/could-meaning-title-novel-hours-explained-292660  A quickquestion and answer about the title.

http://blogcritics.org/books/article/the-hours-by-michael-cunningham  compares, rather unflatteringly, Mrs. Dalloway to The Hours (the novel).

5. Critical Analysis.

How does homosexuality (including lesbianism) function within the film? If you took out the gay characters and their concerns, how would that change the film?

Homosexuality (lesbianism) functions as one of the main themes of the film. The film demonstrates the different perceptions towards homosexuality in three different time periods. First, Virginia Woolf, was bisexual in both the movie, and in real life. Second, Laura shares an intimate kiss with Kitty which is a hint to an even greater, unexpressed longing and desire. Third, Clarissa is involved romantically with Sally, and was formerly involved with Richard who is gay. If you removed the gay characters and their concerns there would be no movie. In the case of Virginia and Laura their sexuality conflicts with the norms of their time period, and results, inevitably, in an irreconcilable set of problems that results in their depression. In the case of Clarissa, her sexuality is no longer as large a stumbling block to emotional happiness, but it is stifled by the complicated love with Richard. In all three cases, their sexuality is at odds with the relationships they each share with a man (i.e. Virginia and her husband whom she commits suicide to leave; Laura and her husband whom she abandons with their child; Clarissa and Richard whom she leaves for Sally).    

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Hours

  1. Nice job, Andrew. 10/10. JB.

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