Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; drama, USA, 1966; D: Mike Nichols, S: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, Sandy Dennis

After a party in honor of the new members of the university, Martha, wife of history teacher George, invites a young couple, Nick and Honey, for a drink. Although Nick thinks the diner will be very pleasant, Martha starts provoking George more and more fiercely, mentioning his failures in writing a novel, coping with a measly salary and others. George returns her back with the same measure, in sarcastic dialogs. After Honey becomes drunk and throws up, the quartet goes to a dance hall. Martha and George continue arguing even there. Martha and Nick return back in the house and have intercourse. But then Martha starts insulting him too. George returns to the house and makes up with Martha, explaining Nick they are like that because they can’t have kids.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” is the scariest 1960’s Hollywood drama without violence, and one of the most unusual and sarcastic movies about marriage in the history of cinema. First time director Mike Nichols proves his talent by masterfully mixing the contrast of hate/ love and seriousness/ comedy, placing the hole minimalistic story in a claustrophobic ‘kammerspiel’ revolving around only 4 people. The dialogues between Martha and George create and incredible iteration of cynicism: “You fool!”, she says. “Martha has a way with words”, he replies in front of the confused young couple. Others include – “You’re becoming bald!” – “You too, dear.” / “What kind of a confusing painting is that?” – “Ah, that’s a painting of some Greek Martha attacked. It represents the state of order in Martha’s head.” / “Some people would give their right hand for this!” – “And some even a more intimate part of the body.” / “You’ll regret that!” – “I regret everything.” It’s a genius, undated and unbelievably powerful portrait of the unsustainable nature of hate, by it’s cynical humor and amazing visual style 40 years ahead of it’s time, a drama about the antagonism between husband and wife that’s all too close to bear. The movie won 5 Oscars (main actress Elizabeth Taylor, costumes, cinematography, set design and supporting actress Sandy Dennis), was nominated for 7 Golden Globes (including best picture – drama and director) and won 3 BAFTA awards (best film, actress Taylor and actor Burton).

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