A Street Car Named Desire Review
By Jennifer Anne Glenn
From play to film
Take a basic black and white film and add burning fury to the plot....
...giving you a new perspective on ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ , which is a film exploding with passion, fear, despair and running deep with sexual tension between all the key characters. Within every scene, there is emotional battle being fought. From the very beginning to the very end, the tension just keeps escalating, until the very final scene, which leaves the audience either sitting on the very edge of their seats, or with eyes that have ran dry, from crying too much.
The film is based around the very successful play written by Tennessee Williams, in 1947, but this was made four years after, 1951. The film is set in the beautiful city of New Orleans, often known as ‘The Big Easy’. Yet ironically; the film itself is in no way ‘Big Easy’, if anything it is quite far from that. The film is based around the young and attractive character of Blanche DuBois who is in desperate need of security and protection. She soon finds herself venturing into New Orleans to find her young married sister, Stella Kowalski. Soon Blanche is re-entwined with her loving sister, and two of them begin to re-build the strong bond that was once between them. However, this bond is torn apart by the savage Stanley Kowalski, who can’t stand the sight of Blanche, and he begins to drive her into despair, as he begins to push her into past events that she does not want to dwell on...
A director’s Tale
This classic film is directed by the extremely talented and award winning Elia Kazan, who has directed many successful films, such as ‘On the Water Front’ and ‘East of Eden’ both of which won several academy awards, including a win for Best Director. Within ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, Kazan builds a deep emotional connection between each character and the audience, even with the brutal and wild Stanley Kowalski; Kazan has the ability to create an emotional tie. He uses a wide ranch of close-ups to the character’s face, so the audience can see deep into the character’s mind, and understand what they are feeling. Within the film whenever we are introduced to a character, it seems that Kazan uses a symbolic symbol to show us a deep sign for each character.
Stars of the Past
Vivien Leigh, who has also starred in ‘Gone with the Wind’, plays the insecure and fragile Blanche DuBois; who we are first introduced to when the film opens with a rusty, old steam train pulling into the busy station, with grey smoke filling the screen and Blanche slowly steps out, clutching at her suitcase. In a way, this gives us a detailed insight to the character. It’s as if the smoke symbolises the mystery that dwells within Blanche DuBois. Throughout the film, Leigh’s raw talent brings out the deep and broken personality of Blanche. Throughout the film, Leigh slowly reveals more and more of the neurotic character. It seems that with every scene that Blanche is in, we see small shreds of her dignity slowly torn away, by her lurid past that creeps back up to haunt her. Within all this action, Vivien Leigh gives a very realistic and outstanding performance in getting across the emotional battle that is ferociously invading her mental state.
As we follow Blanche into New Orleans, we are soon introduced to Stella Kowalski, Blanche’s younger sister. We meet Stella in the bowling alley, where her husband is playing. As Blanche walks into the bowling alley, we see Stella struggling to get past a group of people, to reach her sister. This is appears to show (like the rest of the film), that there is something preventing Stella from being able to connect properly with her sister. As Stella has to fight her way through a group of people, this seems to foreshadow how she is going to have to fight someone or something to be able to be with her sister...
Stella Kowalski is played by Kim Hunter, who has starred in the very successful film, ‘Planet of the Apes’. Hunter portrays the character of Stella as a loving and faithful wife, who will probably walk on broken glass for her dominating, and almost ape like husband. There is a very strong and passionate onscreen sexual tension between Hunter and Brando, which gives a very realistic performance within the film. Hunter has the capability to grip audience’s attention, and pull you into her character, and it seems you can feel what she is feeling.
Now, we have arrived at the only male lead role of the film, Stanley Kowalski. As we have been introduced to Stella and Blanche in very clever ways, it seems that when with Stanley, we only need to see him in a messy brawl with other men, to realise that this is what he is best at….violence.
Marlon Brando plays the irate and deeply disturbed Stanley Kowalski. Brando is best known for starring in, ‘The God Father’ and ‘Guys and Dolls’. This talented actor has had the privilege of winning two Oscars, both for best leading actor. In ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, Brando doesn’t only play a dominating character, but he dominates the film itself. From the moment he speaks his first line, you know that he is going to be outstanding, and give an incredible performance. Not only is Brando playing a dominating character, he dominates the entire film with his mind blowing talent. As Stanley is meant to a very violent and fierce character; Marlon Brando is able to show a small glimpse of vulnerability and sadness, Brando shows this hidden side, when Stella leaves Stanley. We are able to see Stanley form from a disturbed human being, into, almost, lost little boy. Throughout the entire film, Brando shows all of Stanley’s raging emotion through his eyes.
Music to enchant
If you have a thing for classic American Jazz music, then look no further. As well as the terrific performance given by the actors, there is also the slight twist of classical New Orleans jazz music. ‘The Blue Piano’ which is a series of different genres of music such as, Swing and Rock and Roll, but in this case it is Jazz. This music plays key roles in subjecting different moods within the film. ‘The Varsouviana Polka’ and ‘The Paper Moon’, are just a few of the classic music choices used in this film, to reflect the deep emotions, as ‘The Varsouviana Polka’ is used cleverly by Kazan to symbolise the death of Blanche’s husband.
So overall, this film is a long and widening road of events that clash together to create an action packed film, with spectacular performances, and ideas from the extraordinary director. This film is not to be missed!!