Reading/ Viewing The Hours: Does it matter is you're familiar with Mrs. Dalloway?

I’m a big fan of both Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours (the novels). As far as films go, I thought Mrs. Dalloway fell far short, while The Hours hit the mark quarely.

I saw the Hours in the theater and, from the moment Woolf pockets her rock, I was moved on many occassions to weep openly in the crowded theater. I will cop to being a pretty emotional person, FTR. Anyway, the people sitting next to us obviously had no clue about the novel The Hours or Mrs. Dalloway for that matter, which they made quite obviously by asking each other repeatedly what was going on. “Did you understand that?” one would ask. The reply, invariable, was, “No.”

Now I’m in a Film as Literature class and we’ve read both books and seen both movies (second time around for me on both). Because I’ve been a fan and studied both of these works, it’s impossible for me to answer the question from the other point of view. Of course I think one has to be familiar with Mrs. Dalloway to get the film (and the book, really). It isn’t impossible to see the movie and understand a lot of it, and to take something from it, but I really think a person is passing on a lot of the nuance if they aren’t familiar with Mrs. Dalloway when undertaking The Hours, both in book and film.

What about other people? Do you think your familiarity or lack of familiarity with Mrs. Dalloway affected your experience with reading or view The Hours?

Hope I picked the right forum, here.

Anna Belle

The first time I saw The Hours, my reading of Mrs. Dalloway was about ten years in the past, and largely forgotten. It’s not my favourite Woolf by a long stretch. (I still haven’t read The Hours, for shame.)

The movie really knocked me on my ass. I went back and reread Mrs. Dalloway after watching it, because I knew I’d want to watch it again, and soon.

I think that there’s enough exposition in The Hours to give a casual viewer the impression of the connections between Virginia, Mrs Dalloway, and Mrs. Brown.

More subtle relations are lost without having the Mrs. Dalloway pretty firmly in mind. For example, I remember relating Richard exclusively to Virginia Woolf, and not recognizing how much of his character is based on Septimus. (That gets into sort of a strange loop, I guess.)

Eesh. It’s been too long. Time to go back to it, I think. I can’t seem to hold Mrs. Dalloway in my head-- not even for a couple of short years. :frowning:

I’ve only seen the movie, but I found it pretty easy to follow. I’m sure I didn’t get some of the nuances of the story, but I was able to enjoy it nonetheless. I can’t wait to buy it and watch it again.

Are the books as depressing as the movie? God, at the end of The Hours I felt like slitting my own wrist. I’m not really a shallow person, I can appreciate the powerful performances, but Jeez, I can’t see myself watching it again without a therapist.

Exactly. And how about how Laura Brown also has some shades of Septimus in her? Woolf’s mirrors become a sort of house of mirrors, with all the distortion that implies, in The Hours. That’s part of the fun of it, for me, anyway.

I would highly reccommend reading The Hours. I hadn’t read it until this year myself. It is much, much easier to read than Mrs. Dalloway, especially in terms of scheme and style. Still, I think it nicely captures and updates for the modern age what Woolf was trying to do with Mrs. Dalloway.

The movie, btw, rarely departs from the book, though typically, some senes are left out. Just a few if I recall. Most of it is “true to the book.” However, like Mrs. Dalloway, there’s a whole world of inner process that the viewer misses out on by seeing the movie and not reading the book. That’s what struck me. I’d be reading and thinking, oh, well the actor didn’t suggest to me that all of that was going on…

I’m digressing a bit here, but I’ve been thinking about how The Hours is, in some way, Cunningham’s ironic gift to Woolf. In the Hours, Cunningham lets Clarissa explore and live out her lesbian tendancies, and some Woolf scholars speculate that she had bisexual tendacies herself, and might even have been gay. That is the gift. The irony comes in when we realize that it hasn’t made any difference, she is still, like Clarissa Dalloway, deeply unsatisfied by her life choices.

Singular1, yes, I think it’s fair to say the books are pretty depressing in places. The Hours seemed more playful in places than Mrs. Dalloway, especially if you’re well read enough to get the intertextuality woven throughout. Cunningham (quite masterfully, imo) manages to slip in literary allusion and mirror throughout the novel. Many times I was reminded of authors like Eliot, Hesse & Lessing. There seems to be a whole sub-parallel between Laura Brown’s story and a Doris Lessing short story called To Room Nineteen.

However, it is worth noting that for some readers, the sheer beauty of the prose is the dominant feature. The novels are carried along on waves of poetry and philosophy and I enjoyed both books immensely for the emotional and intellectual ride they offered me.

In the special features, there’s an interview with an elderly man that said that for a time, his mother and Woolf were lovers. The feature more-or-less said that Woolf seemed happiest when she was with her female lovers.