Bright morning sunlight pours through a side window, bathing Rosmersholm in illuminating hope. It is this hope that lives in Rosmer, a man who has thrown off years of oppression – The portraits on the wall of Rosmersholm hint at the family’s past, years of history and expectation against which Rosmer must rebel – to discover himself and his ideals, and is now ready to share them with the world.
The world, however, is not ready to hear them. His family have led the local community in its right-wing ways for centuries, and his friends are not ready to lose him to liberalism. The left want to use him, but don’t want to be associated with a former pastor who has renounced his religion. He is trapped in the middle with only his companion, Rebecca West, for company.
The relationship between Rosmer and West is the beating heart of Ibsen’s drama. West is a woman manipulating situations for her own end, but as opposed to a conniving Lady MacBeth figure, Helen McCory delivers an idealist trying desperately to do the best for the man she loves, a woman who shakes visibly when disclosing her morbid secret.
The man she manipulates is no ambitious warrior, but a similar idealist, rebelling against the dominant politics of the era. Paul Hilton’s Rosmer is a naïve dreamer with total belief in the human spirit to revel in goodness, the passion of youth and the unbridled energy coursing through him.
Strong-willed political rivals orbit around the powerful pair. Malcolm Sinclair’s old family friend Kroll moves from generous-spirited ‘uncle’ to word-spitting, steely-gazed moral assassin. The uptight, pristine doctor contrasts neatly with Paul Moriarty’s tatty, dishevelled former tutor, and left-wing revolutionary Ulrik Brendel.
The sad tragedy, of course, is that it is these charismatic talkers and politicians that, with their fighting and mud-slinging do nothing to help the people, and Rosmer in particular. The desolation he feels at the end is compounded by Mrs Helseth’s (Veronica Quilligan) scream, which haunts me still this morning.