Peter was just too much, too intense, too needy, too much of a risk, even for Clarissa.  For wasn’t she the one who wanted the excitement of midnight boat rides on the lake,  loved parties and even dared a Lesbian flirtation with Sally.  Clarissa has charm and ‘joie de vivre’; she loves bringing people together, imparting a little joy to their lives.  It is  her mission.  So chose Richard,  handsome, dependable, loving  and just a little bit dull.  Richard would look after her and give her the status and position to act the hostess and impress.  With Peter, anything could have happened.  It would have been exciting but dangerous.  He offered that intoxicating combination of desire and risk that could transport her to ecstacy or lead her to devastation and destruction.   It was the classic romantic dilemma; excitement or security.   

Thirty five years and a war later, Peter returns from his adventures in India and joins the great and the good at Clarissa’s party.  Clarissa is distracted by the terrifying image of a shell shock victim she had seen earlier that day still trying to prevent his friend been blown up by a mine.  She learnt that he had jumped out of the window and impaled himself on the spikes of the railings below to escape incarceration by the doctor.  He had taken the risk, committed himself to the excitement of war,  and gone mad with the trauma of it.  

Clarissa escapes from the party and stands at the window looking down, but she is caught by the smiling face of the women in the house and she draws back from the edge, returns to Richard and has a last dance with Peter. 

Mrs Dalloway a tender poignant love story, one that I guess occurs all too often.  You might say that Clarissa made the right choice.  But which would you make?             

Mrs Dalloway is based on a novel by Virginia Woolf (1925), adapted for the screen by Eileen Atkins, directed by Marleen Gorris (1997) and starring Vanessa Redgrave.  Janet Maslin writes in her review for The New York Times,  ‘The film drifts easily between past and present, romance and pragmatism, hope and despair in its evocation of Woolf’s vision. At the centre of all this is the eloquent fragility of society hostess, Clarissa Dalloway, who is rendered larger than life by her capacity for intelligent reflection amid her seemingly mundane existence. Ms Gorris casts two actors for the younger and older characters and it works wonderfully.  The two Clarissas, one in her 50’s and the other exuberantly young, are both radiant. While Natascha McElhone brings a beaming nonstop ingenuousness to the younger role, it is Vanessa Redgrave’s marvelous performance as the aging, soul-searching, sad-eyed Clarissa that gives the film its grandeur.   There was a time, replete with vanilla clothes and house parties at the country manor, when she and young Peter (Alan Cox) might have shaped their lives differently, the same time when Clarissa found herself in a flirtation with the pretty, headstrong Sally Seton (Lena Headey). This was a time when each of the story’s principals, played by two actors apiece, showed a youthful fire that has long since vanished. By 1923 the men have grown pompous and paunchy, while Clarissa herself muses on the idea of being Mrs. Dalloway.’

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