A movie based on a stage-play; While this is not my most favorite combination it still can work out really well on film. And even though this movie does feel very stagy, it still is one of those movies that work out really well.

It's not an enjoyable movie to watch and even one that is quite hard to get through at times but it ultimately is a very rewarding viewing experience. The acting, the characters, the directing, the story and its progress, it all ensures that "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is an unique and powerful movie experience.

This movie foremost is a real character driven one. It's mostly set at the same locations and all that the movie basically involves is the characters speaking back and forth to each other. They do this in a very snappy way and love to get on each others backs. In order for this to all work out as well as it did, the movie needed to have some great actors in it. And with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton the movie of course has some great leading actors, as well as a legendary screen couple. They appeared in countless movies together and were married twice to each other in real life.

It's no big secret that their relationship and marriage was far from perfect and peachy. In that regard they are perfectly cast in this movie. It's imaginable that they put some of their relationship into this movie. They are bickering constantly and calling each other out, all fueled by far too much alcohol and the presence of a younger visiting couple, played by George Segal and Sandy Dennis.

I of course have no illusions, this is often how married life is like. Of course maybe not as extreme and in the same fashion as portrayed in this movie but overall it still feels like a fair and plausible relationship, between two middle aged persons, who are more or less stuck together and to each other. The movie and some of its situations should be very recognizable to some long time married couples.

But it also is really the way the story gets told by the director Mike Nichols that make this movie and its story work out so well. It's story has a slow buildup but the movie itself is actually never a slow one and also doesn't feel that way. Quite an accomplishment for a movie that is being over 2 hours long, is mostly set at the same location and only features 4 characters in it. This actually was Mike Nichols' directorial debut, believe it or not. But judging by this movie, he probably already had some theatrical experience, prior to shooting this movie.

The movie got also loaded with praise and also was one of the front runners at that year's Academy Awards. As a matter of fact, it got nominated in every category it was eligible for and it's also one of three movies with only 4 credited actors in it, who all got nominated for an Oscar as well. The movie eventually took home 5 of the awards but lost out on all the most important ones, such as the ones for best picture, writing and directing.

It did won an Oscar for its cinematography though, which pleases me, seeing how much this movie deserved that win. It's the camera-work, together with its editing, that often really adds to the movie its pace. Besides, it's great to see they didn't took a static approach, which was perhaps the safest and more common approach to take to a movie of this kind. The movie does really has some special shot sequences in it, that are great to look at and definitely really adds something to the movie.

A great movie and not just because of its acting!

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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