Ibsen From The BBC And On DVD: “The Lady from the Sea”

Hendrick Ibsen‘s play The Lady from the Sea is about alienation from the self—in a woman named Ellida.  Her own mind is resisting her marriage to her husband, Dr. Wangel, because she did not have “free will” upon accepting his years-ago proposal.  But Wangel is a good man, and the home he has built for Ellida can be considered a home of love.

Alas, this may not be the kind of home in which Arnholm and Bolette, Ellida’s stepdaughter, live after they get married, for Bolette glorifies, to the exclusion of everything else, experiencing the world.  Certainly she does not glorify Arnhom (her former teacher) because she does not yet love him.  But in the future . . .?  Ibsen’s play is heartening without being wholly happy.  It is a small-scale work filmed, with impeccable acting, by the BBC in 1974.  I greatly appreciate the production.

These days the plot of The Lady from the Sea is rather stale.  Still, the play is interesting and probing.  Eileen Atkins is histrionically authoritative, and beautifully sensitive, as Ellida.  Denholm Elliott always knew how to enact a good man; he is masterly and never boring.  Never false is the way to describe Michael Feast as an enthusiastic would-be artist.  Carole Nimmons is a strikingly authentic Bolette.  All the actors are great in this respectable TV mounting.

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