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In the summer of 1923, and during the course of a single June day, Clarissa Dalloway (Vanessa Redgrave), a fashionable hostess confronts the decisions she made as a vibrant young woman thirty years before. Was she right to have chosen a safe, comfortable marriage to politician Richard Dalloway (John Standing) over the romantic and adventurous life she could have had with her other suitor, Peter Walsh (Michael Kitchen), who unexpectedly returns from India on this of all days.

Review by Louise Keller:
A complex and intricate period drama, Mrs Dalloway is a reflective piece, filled with ambience, yet overflowing with self-doubt. This is a time when elegance is in vogue, and the lifestyle unhurried and uncluttered. Eileen Atkins’ screenplay from Virginia’s complex work, weaves myriads of life’s anomalies and irregularities into the outwardly serene life of Clarissa Dalloway, superbly played by Vanessa Redgrave, herself the epitome of elegance and style. Redgrave exudes innocence, naivety and a youthful exuberance, contrasting with an insecure, world-weary inner-self, on this a journey of thoughts and meditation. Her memories are shown fleetingly in glimpses of colourful scenes from the past; her fear of being overwhelmed by the passionate love of her ardent suitor Peter Walsh (movingly portrayed by Michael Kitchen), as opposed to the safety and stability of life with her would-be husband Richard. Interwoven into the society hostess’ world, is the tortured soul and impending madman Septimus (Rupert Graves, a stand-out), a character allegedly reflecting Virginia Wolf’s own unstable nature. His is a character who is unable to hide his inner torment; contrasting Mrs Dalloway’s outward serenity masking her fears. The film is a showcase for Redgrave, whose inner beauty overflows throughout. A film of supreme beauty and delicacy, the settings are picturesque, the gardens glorious, while the very elegance and snobbery of the time aptly portrayed. Mrs Dalloway is very much the portrait of a lady, whose very complexities make real, accessible and very human.

If you’re interested about Mrs Dalloway and her creator Virginia Woolf, check out the biographical information about both of them. Information about Vanessa Redgrave, herself an icon, is also available and in The Making Of Feature, the cast and crew discuss the film and the characters. Because it’s a contemplative film, I found the feature really interesting – the subject matter and the people involved. Vanessa Redgrave talks about Virginia Woolf as a writer on the level of Picasso; the project came about when script writer Eileen Atkins said to Redgrave that she should play Mrs Dalloway. ‘Why don’t you write a script for me?’ was her reply, and Atkins reflects that Redgrave indeed gave her the heart to write it. Although the film might be set in the 20s, emotions have not really changed, says director Marleen Gorris. Watching this film makes us realise that.

Published September 4, 2003

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(UK) - 1997

CAST: Vanessa Redgrave, Natascha McElhone, Rupert Graves, Michael Kitchen, John Standing, Alan Cox, Lena Headey, Margaret Tyzack, Sarah Badel

DIRECTOR: Marleen Gorris

SCRIPT: Eileen Atkins (based on the novel by Virginia Woolf)

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16 : 9 widescreen; audio: 2.0 stereo

SPECIAL FEATURES: trailer; making of featurette; production notes; about Virginia Woolf and Mrs Dalloway; biographies of director, screenwriter, Vanessa Redgrave, Natascha McElhone, Rupert Graves


DVD RELEASE: August 20, 2003

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