Mrs. Dalloway: British Connexion

I grew up in a Disney world where age and wisdom increase proportionally. So it is a little weird for me to watch more mature people act so fastidious and puerile. Therefore, you can imagine how difficult it was to try to analyze the characters and the motives for their actions in the 1997 movie Mrs. Dalloway. While much of the movie stays true to the novel by Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway and her circle of friends seem slightly senile with all the smiles, stares, and repetition of “look.”

Yet, as I warmed up to the characters and saw them in different frames of their lives, I began to sympathize with them. There seems to be such an abundance of misery and pain in this world that Mrs. Dalloway, Hugh, Peter, Richard, and Lady Bruton choose to focus on the superficial and less upsetting. Mrs. Dalloway veers around the awkward emotions creeping up on her since Peter has re-emerged into her life. She does not want to worry but knows that they have left things unresolved and unhappy. Will he be the same Peter who I once knew? Will he remember me? Us? Is life happy without me? These are questions that are perceptibly considered during the movie. The questions boil down to the significance of existence and how it shows in the lives of other people. Clarissa, nevertheless, shies away from such depth and introspective thoughts throughout the movie to utter “You won’t forget about my party! You’re coming to my party?” (except throw a British accent on it to pronounce pa-aw-ty).

Nonetheless, Septimus bears much of the depth in the movie, as well as in the novel for me. He is not afraid of introspection but suffers from it. He appears to be encumbered by every other character’s inability to deal with such deep thoughts, pains, and suffering. He endures enough suffering for all of them. When Mrs. Dalloway worries about her party or Peter about why Clarissa doesn’t like him or Lady Bruton about her new and brilliant cause or Hugh about stately appearance or Richard about…about…nothing really, Septimus is on the edge of such trivialities. He constantly hears a cacophony of sounds triggered by one “clamorous sound." He says "all the world is clamoring" and notices that he is finding it insufferably difficult to continue to be in such pervading anguish. He seems desensitized when he feels the most out of all of the characters. Hugh talks to Clarissa about his indisposed wife and Clarissa seems to feel very little when compared to Septimus’s reaction to Dr. Holmes as a “sneaky hunter.” (Dr. Holmes implies that Septimus is feeling lost or displaced mainly because “Men coming back from war…their work has been commandeered by women” and not because he saw a comrade, Evans, blown up in front of him.)
On the other hand, Septimus sets the tone of the movie and gives reason to why these characters are the way that they are. The movie opens with Italy 1918 and Septimus in the trench calling out to his comrade, Evans, before the comrade’s demise. Soft echoing music with still, detached notes resonates. This event is big. Perhaps, it is too big to live up to or to contemplate. It becomes easier to focus on the little things. Shift in the little things like choice of hat or dress or meaningless parties do not have as great or immediate an impact as actually confronting issues like death, the war, or suicide. Mrs. Dalloway’s patrons can experience momentary satisfaction in her parties and can reserve pensive remembrances of the night for later. Clarissa talks about the significance of a party to “give people one night in which everything feels really enchanted.” The aim of her having a party is to give a spark to life and to advocate appreciation for it. She tries to share this enchantment with her guests. Clarissa is connecting and uniting with people in a world with such solitary thoughts and trivial focus where the characters may fail to understand one another because they do not venture deep enough within themselves and each other to comprehend one another. Clarissa connects with her guests, with Septimus as a participant (not victim because she does not see it that way) of suicide and flower-shop onlooker, and with the woman she sees in the window from her balcony at the close of the movie. The difference between Septimus and Clarissa is that, among other things, Septimus turns away from the person he connects with and sees through the window across from Dr. Holmes’s office. He rejects personal connection while Clarissa seeks it and strives to maintain it.

All in all, Mrs. Dalloway was a bit long for me but accurately portrayed much of the novel, except for the car scene—a big scene to me. The hues used in the movie were beautiful neutrals and pastels that mirrored the level of passion and depth within the world of Mrs. Dalloway (tepid with superficialities). The costumes were nice pieces. The actors portrayed the characters well. Mrs. Dalloway is an interesting movie and an individual who likes to see the novel-to-movie transition should see it.