"The Hours": Three Cinematic Ages of Women Across Three Ages
The central theme of the movie "The Hours," is that across the ages, from the 1920's to the 1950's to the present day, women have a uniquely complicated relationship to the journeys of death and dying we must all suffer through. Women must struggle with the need to negotiate a delicate balance between extending compassion and caring to the world around them and â€˜saving' something for their own souls. Society traditionally calls women to act selflessly towards others, especially the old and the ill. But also women must find out how to define themselves as artists, lest they lose their own souls. Thus definition requires some level of selfishness. All of the women in the film are past the age of first youth, thus they have responsibilities of caring for partners, children, and friends. Even today, women often have the task of caring for the dying members of their family, and bringing the next generation into being by
Clarissa is not a stereotypical a"feminine female' in thatshe is a lesbian. raisingchildren as well as giving birth to children and caring for their husbands. Herdetermination to defy death and the ravages of age is revealed in herdesire to throw a fantastic, loving party for her former lover and constantfriend Richard. This aspect of female life is thrown into even sharper relief throughflashbacks to the 1950's in America, as the struggles and frustrations ofthe mother of the present-day man dying of AIDS is depicted. Richard'smother is frustrated as she tries to throw an appropriate birthday bash forher husband, but her efforts and beauty and culture fall short, she feels,of the novelistic scenes she is reading over the course of the film. " Also, Virginia Woolf's personal struggles,although this might seem to be the most innovative section of the film'snarrative, occasionally falls into stereotypical a"tortured artist' mode,rather than touching upon the real-life struggles depicted in the Americansections of the film. Even if one may not entirelyagree with the thesis expressed about female frustration and sufferingthrough the ages in such stark terms, the idea that all individuals areconnected by the lifecycle of aging and dying, through literature,emotional difficulties, and a willingness to form lasting friendships ispoignant. Care giving is depicted in the present-day as the female Clarissa's isshown caring for a friend suffering from AIDS, by celebrating the day ofhis birth, rather than stressing the fact he is dying prematurely. Thus this film uniquely relates to a course in adulthood and aging issuesby stressing the uniquely female aspects of care giving, in different eras. Ifonly she could be like Virginia Woolf, it is implied, her birthday effortsfor her husband would be suffused with a meaning lacking in the imagesoffered by suburban America. There is a certain stereotypical nature to the images and themes ofthe a"backward' attitudes exhibited by men towards women in the scenes fromthe 1950's in "The Hours. But as an adult woman, faced with someone who isprematurely dying and aging, she has little choice but to assume a care-giving role. The greatest crossover to everyday living in "thereal world" is undoubtedly found in the contemporary scenes that call intoquestion appropriate means of mourning the dead and easing the passage ofthose passing into to the next world is celebrating birth the best way, orare their other means to honor those who are dying, of creating connectionsto past and present' Woolf's suffering is so internal, it is harder tosympathize with, in a filmed depiction of the difficulties of dealing withdeath, as opposed to Richard's suffering The highlighting of birthday celebrations in a film about thetransience of life, however, is poignant.
Some topics in this essay:
, Virginia Woolfs, Richard Clarissa, Virginia Woolf, care giving, own souls,
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