the fresh films reviews

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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Mike Nichols

Ernest Lehman

Ernest Lehman
Edward Albee (based on his play)

Hvem er redd for Virginia Woolf?
129 minutes

Cast includes:

Martha Elizabeth Taylor
George Richard Burton
Nick George Segal
Honey Sandy Dennis



As theatre prodigy Mike Nichols made his big screen directorial debut after having been trusted with adapting Edward Albee roaringly successful Tony winning play from 1962, his most surprising feat was perhaps not how expertly he was able to transfer the magic of the stage to the screen (he was already an immensely experienced and widely hailed stage director tipped for greatness), but rather how he was, as one of very few, able to not only attract and inspire, but handle, direct and ultimately draw close to career best performances from the first modern movie star couple, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Armed with Albee's masterful dialogue, especially in the first act, the sometimes wry and detached Burton connected with the character's intellectualism and sarcasm to give arguably one of his most personal and riveting performances. And so did his on- and off-screen wife Taylor, who displayed her explosiveness and range like never before or since. Together with the filmmakers they created a more penetrating and private look at married life behind closed doors than had ever been done before on film (and hardly ever after).

The first half of the movie is among the best ever in terms of capturing acting performances on film, which includes not only the work of the performers and Nichols' direction, but also how it is staged and shot by cinematographer Haskell Wexler. Wexler's work is one of the keys to why the film, although still stagy, survived the transition from stage to screen so impressively. And the result is a film that was and remains both iconic, important and intrinsic, even after 50 years. Nichols would go on to direct The Graduate the following year, whereas Burton and Taylor would (continue to) spend their earnings enjoying life on and around various European rivieras.

Re-reviewed: Copyright 27.09.2016 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review:
Copyright 25.11.1999 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang