The first time I watched Stephen Daldry’s “The Hours” was a few years ago when I had absolutely no knowledge about Virginia Woolf or her work. Back then, I had really enjoyed the movie, mostly because I love almost any book or movie that threads together multiple story lines and time periods. Now that I have acquired much more knowledge (and by “much more” I mean “more than not having any”) about Woolf and the novel Mrs. Dalloway, I have a new-found appreciation for the film the second time around.
Throughout the movie, the audience follows the intertwining lives of three different women, one of whom is Virginia Woolf herself. The other two women add interesting depth to the story; one an unhappy housewife living in the 1950s, the other a woman throwing a party for her writer friend in the present day. Part of what makes the movie so complex and so enthralling is the way these two women reflect Woolf’s protagonist, Clarissa Dalloway, for a modern audience. Clarissa Dalloway felt that her life had become trivial, and thus felt a certain kind of despair that her contribution to society had amounted to throwing parties for fellow socialites.
This kind of deep-rooted dissatisfaction for the direction her life had taken is seen in the women of “The Hours” as well. Just as Virginia Woolf feels confined and imprisoned by her life in the country, Laura Brown (the aforementioned housewife) feels imprisoned in her suburban environment. Laura lives a quiet, desperate life and consoles herself through reading; her current papery companion being Mrs. Dalloway. Although Laura Brown makes bolder choices than Clarissa made, her similarities to Clarissa are undeniable. Through her, we see that people like Clarissa can be found in the real world—and in a fairly modern world as well. The film does an excellent job of showing that the same sort of emotions Woolf may have felt while creating the character of Clarissa can translate into the emotions felt by a severely depressed housewife living just a few decades before our time.
Clarissa Vaughn obviously shares many qualities with Clarissa Dalloway, seeing as Vaughn is her present-day counterpart. What makes Clarissa Vaughn so fascinating is that although she is leading an alternative version of Clarissa Dalloway’s life (ie. living with Sally and reminiscing about her past with Richard) she is still the woman throwing parties, feeling a persistent sadness for her lost youth and happiness. This is seen mostly through her relationship with Richard in the film, and it appears that the characters of Richard and Peter are oddly combined within a single character in “The Hours.” Although, the character’s name is Richard, it seems that the kind of passion he feels for Clarissa Vaughn and the way she clings to Richard and their past is more reminiscent of the original Clarissa’s relationship with Peter. In any case, Clarissa Vaughn is the staggering reality that Woolf’s protagonist is just as likely and just as relevant a figure in our time as in Woolf’s time.
Overall, I would highly recommend watching the film because it offers very intriguing portrayals of Woolf’s life and the lives of alternative Clarissa Dalloways. If that isn’t convincing enough, there are also some plot twists you might want to check out that I shan’t give away for the sake of first-time viewers. = )