1. Analysis of the Book
The Hours by Michael Cunningham is a heavily internal, stream of consciousness novel that is centered around three women and their struggles with finding satisfaction in life. Readers are given entry into the characters’ thoughts and feelings into whatever predicament they’re in. Readers are able to identify and understand the struggles of these characters. Cunningham touches on the difficulty of living with AIDS during its first outbreak, suicide, and emotional detachment.
2. Analysis of the Film
The Hours is a film that tracks a day in the life of three women from three different times. Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway is what connects these three seemingly unrelated stories and Woolf is one of the central characters herself. As the movie goes on, scenes juxtapose on top of each other to show a connection in the disjointed narrative. Their depression and dissatisfaction with life also connects their narratives and is a central theme of the film. Daldry seems to explore themes of death (suicide in particular), sexual orientation, entrapment (into a certain way of life), the worth of living, and, to a degree, the negative affect of feminine gender roles and politics toward women. The urgency of time seems to be highlighted in this movie as several scenes throughout the movie include the ticking of a clock is a very audible part of the background music or noise. The Hours demonstrates excellent editing that helped keep the back and forth between stories from being too confusing, abrupt, or incoherent, resulting in a fluid story line that comes together well.
3. Analysis of the Adaptation
Daldry’s adaptation of The Hours is successful in that most of the themes expressed in the Cunningham’s novel are translated well into the film. We see the depression and unhappiness in each of the women shine through in the excellent acting of an all star cast. The narrative voice from the book is also preserved in some small degree because of Virginia Woolf’s voice over narration of her thoughts and ideas. If audiences are receptive enough, certain elements of the film such as a mise-en-scene, can help imply what characters were feeling at the moment since it couldn’t be explicitly expressed through narration like in the novel. One such scene is when Virginia Woolf sits in her study with a desk and paper on her lap and books or papers are shown to be strewn about the room is messy disarray. Looking at her surroundings, viewers can get a sense of the chaos going on inside her head as she tackles several thoughts about not only her book but her life. When Laura is in the bathroom crying as her husband beckons her to bed, we see she is in a small room with the door nearly closed, which makes viewers see how boxed in she must feel from her depression and her her husband’s obliviousness to her condition.
But again these things can be noticed if the audience is attentive enough to these details or cares enough to pay attention to these details, which can be a downfall for the movie with certain audiences who are used to more straight forward films. The film has to rely mostly on the audience’s receptiveness for it to be received successfully.
4. Online Research
- Review from the New York Times where the Stephen Holden points out what scenes or elements of Mrs. Dalloway is included in Cunningham’s novel and Daldry’s film.
- Article from Sight & Sound Magazine that talks about Daldry’s intentions when shooting The Hours and Michael Cunningham’s expectations for the novel.
- Movie review in Journal of Feminist Family Therapy that argues that The Hours addresses and criticizes, with its three main female characters, the role that men and a patriarchal society plays on women with mental illness. He claims that The Hours speaks to the struggles of three women in a society “that tends to ignore and marginalize the experiences of women and their right to speak on their own behalf.” He delves in depth into two particular scenes within the movie that demonstrate this: Virginia Woolf’s scene at the train station with her husband (which criticizes the role of her ever vigilant husband and a medical system that robs her of her own free will) and Laura Brown’s scene at the dinner table with her husband and son (which demonstrates her husband’s emotional detachment to her and its effect).
5. Critical Analysis
The Hours deals in intimate detail with the lives of three women characters. But is it a feminist film? Or does it reflect three distinct kinds or stages of feminism?
All of the women in The Hours fight back against conventional women’s roles in their individual stories.
Virginia Woolf is a woman under the control of her husband and doctors, who dictate where, when, and how she can do things like take walks. This was common for women of that time because once they married, they were seen as basically property of their husbands. At the end of the film, Virginia fights back against what her husband and doctors suggest when she runs away to try and catch a train back to London. What she wants most is to move back to London from the stuffy, dead suburbs and she successfully convinces her husband to let her return, taking control back in at least one aspect of her life.
Laura’s story takes place in 1951, after WWII and when the idea of the suburban nuclear family was the general life everyone strove for. Women were stay at home wives and moms whose duties included watching the kids, cleaning the house, and cooking. Laura does all these things but does not seem to enjoy any of it or be particularly good at it. She seems to be suffering from a depression that drives her to almost kill herself to release herself from what everyone thought were her womanly duties. When Laura decides to leave her family after the birth of her second child, she is breaking free from the role that society has pegged her in as a woman, making a feminist statement against the gender role of that time.
Clarissa’s family structure reflects a degree of modern day feminism. Viewers are led to believe that she conceived her child through artificial insemination. Judging by the mounds of papers shown to be on her desk, viewers can also assume that she is a successful editor and the modern day, urban working woman. She didn’t wait around for a man to establish her family and didn’t halt her career for one. She raised her daughter on her own bucking traditional gender roles by just going out and building a family on her own.