“To stay married to someone for life, one must look life right in the face; always, to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is. There will always be years between you. Always the years. Always the love. Always the hours. I remember one morning while on our honeymoon in Puerto Rico: We got up at dawn. There was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling? And I remember thinking to myself: So, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. But that’s not the way it works, really, is it? It was the moment right then. It was happiness!” And the same can be said about depression. “The clinically depressed don’t suddenly get up one day & say, ‘This is it. This is where it starts. This is the beginning of sadness.’” Today’s Classic Movie Blog is of Stephen Daldry’s 2002 masterpiece The Hours. The title alone tells you how important time is in the picture. It takes place over a period of about 80 years & tells the story of 3 women from 3 generations: Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) in 1923 as she’s writing Mrs. Dalloway; Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) who is reading the novel in her all-too-perfect little ‘50’s American world; and Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep), a New Yorker at the start of the 21st century, loves the novel. She is very much like Mrs. Dalloway in many ways. So much so, that her best friend, poet & AIDS patient Richard (Ed Harris), calls her Mrs. Dalloway. Not coincidentally, the novel’s heroine’s first name is also Clarissa. The movie is Mrs. Dalloway on 3 different levels. It deals with depression, homosexuality & suicide. Woolf committed suicide in 1941 & became clinically depressed beginning in her early teens. Laura Brown is very unhappily married to Dan (John C. Reilly), despite both his & her son Richie’s (Jack Rovello) unconditional love for her. And Richard’s depression keeps him in his apartment, where Clarissa tends to him daily.
Kidman won the Best Actress Oscar as Virginia at the 75th Academy Awards, though her role is, if anything, only slightly larger than Streep’s. The Hours was also nominated for Supporting Actor (Harris) and Actress (Moore), Director, Picture, David Hare’s Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design, Film Editing, and Philip Glass’ Score. But what I want to call your attention to in this film is an aspect for which it was not recognized with an Oscar nomination: Production Design. Until the year before last, the category was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences with the Art Direction Oscar. That Award no longer exists. It was replaced in 2013 with Production Design. The Production Designer, or P.D., of a movie is the head of the Art Department, whose chief reports are the Art Director and Set Decorator. The first film with a P.D. was Victor Fleming’s Gone With the Wind: William Cameron Menzies held the position & gave himself that title. The P.D. is responsible for all the visual elements of a film that do not involve acting including: The creation of the sets; mood; lighting; realization of on-location settings; and costume design. In The Hours, Production Designer Maria Djurkovic had the daunting task of enabling us to clearly visualize 3 different times across 2 continents. Each of the stories has its own scheme: Virginia Woolf’s world is dark; Laura Brown’s is perfectly in place, or so it would seem; and Clarissa’s has elements of both. The visual mood helps us understand this complex plot, as Maria tells the story for our eyes to see: A magnificent, disturbing story of clinical depression & suicide! So first, watch the trailer below, then go to Netflix and stream the film & see if you can face Stephen Daldry’s The Hours! 4 Stars!