Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf - Movie Review

Made in 1966 this movie is adapted from a play of the same name written by Edward Albee. I never saw Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in such intense roles before and was pretty stunned by their acting prowess and screen presence. Taylor strides the screen with such ease and power, slips into her role so easily and with such grace and beauty that you wonder when we will see artistes like her again. Ditto for Burton. It is apparently the only film to have been nominated or all 13 categories in the Academy Awards and won five including one for Elizabeth Taylor and Sandy Dennis.

George is a middle aged college professor married to the free spirited Martha, who is also the daughter of the college President where George works (hinting at a compromise somewhere). They have been married several years and it's obvious that Martha controls George as the tale unfolds one evening at their home. She orders him around, shouts and abuses him, knowing fully well that she wields control over him through her father's position. The two are drinking and we see the shades of their relationship - of compromise, power, love, ego, violence, hatred, resentment - you name it you have it.

Martha tells George that they are expecting a young couple home and though its late George has no option but to play along. When the young couple come George gets his own back at Martha by engaging in some weird games where he draws the young couple in to reveal their secrets. Soon Martha gets into the vicious game and exposes George, tries to have an affair with the young stud, and by morning all their lives stand revealed with their human motives, fears, doubts and needs.

Powerful and intense, it's the stuff that most marriages are about in some way and shows how human nature is the same across the Universe. Brilliant performances by Taylor, Burton and the younger couple, played by George Segal and Sandy Dennis. The movie has all the qualities of a play as it involves long dialogue but its fascinating to see how it unfolds especially in the hands of the actors.

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