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Personal Drama In A Street Car Named Desire

By , 9 November, 2009, No Comment

I’ve been meaning to talk about A Street Car Named Desire (1951) for quite some time… I’ve put it off because it’s a heady film, connected to some pretty personal things for me and I’ve never been quite sure how to separate those things from a ‘film review.’ Or end up with a post too long for anyone to bother to read. *wink* But since this week’s Monday Movie Meme is about movies that have changed your life or your behaviors/beliefs, I thought now’s the time to try…

Though I am speaking personally, about changes, and not giving a real review of the movie, I will clarify and say that I’m speaking of Elia Kazan’s film version, starring, among others, Vivien Leigh (as Blanche DuBois), Marlon Brando (Stanley Kowalski), Kim Hunter (Stella Kowalski, Stanley’s wife and Blanche’s sister), and Karl Malden (Harold ‘Mitch’ Mitchell, a suitor of Blanche’s). It’s the only version I’ve seen, and the only one I wish to — because it is perfection.

Also, if you have not seen the film and do not wish to have my story color your viewing of it, please, stop reading now!

There are three points that must be made and understood before I can tell you about the effects of the film. One is that I’m a survivor of abusive relationships, including date rape and physical violence; the second is that my husband is, among other things, a kind, sensitive, and intelligent man who became my husband after I survived such horrible things; and the third, as I’ve mentioned, hubby was a theatre major.

These things matter; they are all tangled-up in this mess.

It was only a few years into our being married. I had previously seen the film, when I spotted it on TCM’s lineup and asked hubby to watch it with me. He resisted, for, as it turns out, he had some sort of college class discussion on the play and felt he’d floundered through it — he’d felt there was ambiguity between reality & fantasy in this film, and wasn’t able to defend his position on such plays of the ‘modern theatre genre’ which seem to force audiences to conjure questions and evolve, rather than watch story and its characters evolve.

This discomfort of his would surprise me greatly for I found nothing ambiguous in the film. And when our discussion fell to the subject of hubby using the rape scene as an example of fantasy, of not having occurred but a figment or excuse of Blanche’s, I was stupefied.

Street Car Names Desire

Street Car Names Desire

Naturally, as a survivor of acquaintance rape, I would find no ambiguity in that scene — nor anything but pain in those which followed, when Blanche is not believed.

Finding my husband questioning even a fictional film victim was difficult. Yet defending or debating my stance that I was ‘right’ didn’t feel right when hubby seemed so vulnerable to those past fears and failings of his own… Should I remain silent, out of deference to his feelings, or give voice to my own feelings and needs?

I opted to remain silent and watch the film, hoping that he would see something in this film version which would remove any doubt that Blanche’s rape was film-reel real.

But it didn’t.

One one hand, my silence had worked; post viewing, hubby felt comfortable enough to assert his beliefs that Blanche had imagined, if not fantasized, the rape and used its cry in an attempt to manipulate her sister.

On the other hand, silence didn’t work for me; it rarely does for victims.

I felt the heat of anger rise and knew I’d need to confront the issue for myself. But I didn’t want to be confrontational with my husband. Plus, didn’t he, the theatre major know more than I? I’m a simple movie lover — who admittedly watches a lot of film purely for the fashions and vintage style, yet; what do I know? …Maybe I’ve got Street Car all wrong?

In the end, I was brave. I forced myself to voice my opinions, thus not cowering as the silenced victim nor playing the ‘intimidated ‘girl’ to his ‘educated man.’ But I also didn’t need to be right. For this is a movie; named as much, in my opinion for it’s ability to move emotions and project passions as for the moving images projected on the screen. And that means no two viewers will — or even need to — be moved the same way.

A Street Car Named Desire remains one of my favorite films. I don’t think he particularly shares my sentiments; but our relationship has more than survived — it thrives because we can share our feelings, our individual vulnerabilities, even when we disagree.

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  • kaye

    very personal choice. I can see why it means so much to you. And yes, most victims suffer in silence. my Monday movie

  • Bumbles

    Wow – that is a terrific post. I’m so glad you were able to share it. I can see why you would have been upset by his differing interpretation. And I’m glad you were able to voice your point of view to counter his. I have not seen that movie in forever. I will watch it again with great interest in perspective.

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