1) The Hours follows the story of three women in three different time periods whose
fates lives are intertwined. The running themes are many and they are vast. Included are gender roles, sexual orientation, life’s meaning, and the life of a writer. By showing three women in different time periods going through similar but era-specific problems, we get a glimpse at how much hasn’t changed even though the world around us constantly shifts and morphs.
2) The book The Hours by Michael Cunningham is at its most basic an investigation in to the soul of the artist. The only character that isn’t an artist, Laura Brown, reads Mrs Dalloway and often her actions mirror those of the book’s author and main character, Virginia Wolfe. The book also spends a good amount of time with the AIDs epidemic, as it was written during the height of AIDs in America. A main problem with adapting this movie is the stream of consciousness style its written in. It is actually less about that, and more about having move in and out seemlessly between three different women in largerly introspective moments in their lives. As many film and literary critics have noted, film is best suited for action, and seems to lack an introspective quality; or rather, a director and screenwriter have to work much, much harder in imbuing their work with an introspective quality than a novelist.
– A direct quote from the review: “A way-too-serious film for people who take themselves way-too-seriously, The Hours gets 2 stars from this class warrior”.
The Hours facebook page. A lot of people commending the work, but also people include artsy quotes, some from the movie, others seem to relate experiences they have that are thematically similar to the movies tone.
I know we were told to stay away from this site, but I think it’s interesting to look at the critic’s reasons for panning or loving the movie. Almost every critic tries to boil the movie down to just one theme: “David Hare’s screen adaptation reduces Woolf and her art to a set of feminist stances and a few plot points” says Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader. So its a feminist rant, huh? But wait, Christopher Smith notes: “If this movie is about how some choose not to live, it’s also just as much about why others choose to go on.” So its a story about life in general. Well at least the script is good, according to Darrin Kenne who writes “The film’s true star is its script”. Hold on, not so fast. Robert Denerstien writes “The acting, for the most part, is terrific, although the actors must struggle with the fact that they’re playing characters who sometimes feel more like literary conceits than flesh-and-blood humans”. So it’s a feminist movie about everyones life with a great script and great actors who deal with a bad script? I know with the internet one can find any critic who argues one side of an issue or the other, but with this film I’ve felt that there has been the most amount of discord regarding what the film is actually about, and its strengths and weaknesses, than any other film we’ve seen. Its a complex work with no definitive “ending”, and this shows in how critics viewed the artistic vision of the work.
4) In The Hours, directed by Stephen Daldry, Richard admonishes Clarissa that “you can’t find peace by avoiding life.” How do the characters in the film avoid life? How do they face it? And is facing death a way of facing life?
The characters avoid “life” in a number of ways. Virginia is isolated from life by her husband and doctors, locked away in a countryside manor. Life for Virginia is in the bustling streets of London, at least she think it might be there. That is where her apparent lover lives, but Virginia’s suicide makes me think she believed life for her was unattainable at this point in life; it was put off and ignored like a lunch at a hidden restaurant in the hills, and when one mustered the time to take the trek to the hidden spot, one finds it has closed and is empty. The repressed housewife Laura hides in plain sight like so many women of her day. Clarissa busies her self with caring for another’s life, giving her the illusion she was living her own. They all face life through art; either by reading it, writing it, or surrounding themselves with people who created it. The last question is a difficult one. In many of my philosophy classes the concerns and questions surrounding suicide make it nearly impossible to make headway in the subject; in fact, very often the group found itself less sure about their feelings of suicide after an hour discussion. Many people call it an escape, an “easy way out” of the problems of life. But to me, calling suicide “an easy way out” is an easy way out, philosophically. I imagine there is nothing easy about ending one’s life; perhaps when influenced by depression and other factors the decision becomes easier in that our natural instinct to survive is reduced, but the word “easy” has no place in this conversation. The two people who commit suicide in the movie are both suffering from pain, though slightly different types. Virginia is depressed, and in an emotionally painful – suffocating, even – place, whereas Richard Brown is also depressed, but his pain is manifestly physical. In cases where cancer patients smoke illegal drugs, or even steal medicine to help relieve the suffering, we as moral beings want to say “we can understand that. this is a special case”. Well, where do we draw the line? Is it right up to suicide? Is it a step before? All these considerations are compounded by religious concerns and the whole thing becomes a convoluted mess. At the end of the day, death might be a way to face life. Only the person who did it can know, and often we question their motives because of mental health concerns. But modern humans think they have the answer to everything, that these people all could have been saved and allowed to lead a “normal life” through modern medicine. I doubt Virginia would have been happy in a modern psychiatric facility. So to answer the question, I guess I would have to say that death is not a way of facing life. Facing life requires you to shoulder on through it, get scratched by it, get your hands dirty in it, like walking through tall brush.