The Courage to Live; A Review Mrs. Dalloway

Every moment of everyday is filled with choices; the choice to dream, the choice to love, and the choice to live. Of the thousands of choices we make in a day, some we realize will effectually change our lives for ever, while with others, there can be know way of knowing their eventual influence, unless, of course, we consider them in hindsight.

Perhaps that’s why Clarissa Dalloway thinks that is so “dangerous to live for just one a day.” Everyday requires the courage to live with the choices we have made, while simultaneously making new ones.

Mrs. Dalloway, a film directed by Marleen Doris, stays true to that theme. We follow Mrs. Dalloway, played by Vanessa Redgrave (who looks curiously like Virginia Woolf in her physical appearance), during and after she makes the choice of a lifetime to marry the more “safe” and predictable Richard “Dalloway, it’s still Dalloway,” over the brash, young, and pocket-knife-fondling, Peter Walsh.

We also follow Septimus Smith (Rupert Graves). Septimus’ story makes evident that many choices are made for us. The death of his friend Evans, for instance, by a wartime blast was cruel and sudden. Overcome with grief and despair, Septimus cannot use human reason to categorize his friend’s death. The doctors, in turn, can’t seem to categorize Septimus and vow, instead, to “take him away.” Yet Septimus believes that the mark of his own sanity is the choice to go on living as he like and if he can no longer do that, then he chooses to die rather than be “in their power.” It is the audacity of Septimus’ choice as well as the one she made that summer in Borden which eventually posses Mrs. Dalloway's thoughts to the point in which she is compelled to reflect on them: “That young man killed himself, but I don’t pity him. I’m somehow glad he could do it- throw it away. It’s made me feel the beauty. Somehow feel very like him- less afraid.” The simple fact that Septimus made a choice is what is so attractive to Mrs. Dalloway, it recalls in her a time of youth and promise. It makes her realize how much life and promise is still left for her to live.

This is not an easy film to produce, for the obvious fact that it is novel based on first-person narration, which take place in the narrator’s own mind. At times I thought the insert of thoughts by Clarissa were rather forced and intrusive and disrupted the flow of the film, but Vanessa Redgrave's performance is so subtle and gracious, it is hard not to be enchanted by her. I was especially moved by the last scene. After Mrs. Dalloway asks herself: “What makes us go on?” She returns to the party. There she joins Peter, Richard and Sally in a dance. After the years of separation, loss, and defeats small and large, they still find comfort in one another, fun and even laughter. What makes us go on? It is moments like these, among friends and family, who, despite all our choices and whether they were for good or ill, can still gather together to celebrate one another and to celebrate life.