The Hours

1. The Hours, written by Michael Cunningham, details the lives of three women living in different time-periods and locations: Virginia Woolf (England), Clarissa Vaughan (New York), and Mrs. Brown (California). A major theme of the book is internal suffering caused by love that is either addressed or unaddressed, as well as suffering caused by pressures to meet expectations of grandeur – all of which are sourced in social expectations.

2. The Hours, directed by Stephen Daldry, follows the same premise as the book it is based on: it explores the lives of three women, Mrs. Woolf, Clarissa Vaughan, and Mrs. Brown. Throughout, suffering and suicide are major themes, which are again, sourced in relationship problems and the failure to meet expectations. Rather than focus on the internal struggles of the characters through internal dialogue (as accomplished in the book), the film relies on the performances of the actors to express this similar level of anguish.

3. As an adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s novel, The Hours, directed by Stephen Daldry, struggles to express the same level of internal detail as well as achieve the same depth with its characters. For example, in the novel, the relationship between Clarissa and Richard (who names her Mrs. Dalloway) is much more finely detailed through the narrator’s insights into Clarissa and Richard’s minds – the relationship between minor characters and major characters is also clearer in the novel than the film (for example, the interaction between Clarissa and Barbara, the one who sells her flowers). A potential reason for this limitation is the fact that the film covers three different women, and it does so in about two hours. Without additional screening, the length and detail of the novel cannot be fully replicated. Regardless, the film still manages to encompass the spirit of the novel, as well as express the same themes of internal disparity – this is accomplished by an intense focus, from the camera, on the actors and their performances.


Book and Film comparison by Ola Mik:

Ola Mik compares the film adaptation of The Hours with its original source material. She points out the significance of eliminating one character from the movie, and how this absence diminishes our understanding of the relationship between Clarissa and her daughter.  For this reason, it is valuable – it helps one understand the impact a single character can have on an original piece or an adaptation.

Book/Film Comparison:

With this comparison, the reviewer determines that the book is more effective in developing internal emotions; whereas, the film is more effective in generating drama.

Jill’s Thoughts While Re-viewing The Hours:

In her blog entry, Jill Schmehl records her thoughts and emotions while re-watching The Hours, these thoughts range from personal experiences as well as how the portrayal of New York City in films has changed post 9/11.


What does the title of the film, The Hours, refer to? What is its significance and what theme or themes does it suggest?

The title of the film, The Hours, refers to the hours one spends living; this title ultimately supports the theme of self-doubt and suffering throughout the film. This “support” comes through Clarissa’s love interest, Richard. According to Richard, his only reason for living is to satisfy Clarissa – to give her life meaning; meanwhile, his own life is meaningless. When he reveals this thought to Clarissa, he claims that it’s the “hours” he has spent living for her that he is tired of, and he can no longer live for himself. But Richard is not the only character throughout the film, who is suffering – Virginia Woolf and Mrs. Brown also endure life to satisfy those who surround them. Both of these women want to kill themselves, but hold off because of their loved ones (for Woolf, it is her husband and for Brown, it is her son). Regardless, each character ultimately gives up, Woolf commits suicide and Mrs. Brown abandons her son, who the audience later discovers is Richard. In this way, the title, The Hours, helps support the theme of suffering throughout the film.

4 thoughts on “The Hours

  1. I feel that “The Hours” is referring to the hours spent living for other people. The movie seems to argue that we can not get these hours back and should therefore live for ourselves. It seems to make the statement also that if we can not enjoy life because we are living for others, we may as well no longer be living.

  2. While I agree that “the hours” refers to time spent living, I interpreted the title as the many moments in life we would not consider monumental. In life, there are true and fleeting moments of happiness or self realization; the hours are all the moments in-between, which the film argues, are mundane and must be endured or escaped, not enjoyed.

  3. Good analysis. You address that one of the restriction to a filmed adaptation of a novel is the time constraints inherent to the Western cinema. When I was younger, I would watch Kung-Fu movies or the Zatoichi series of samurai films from 1960’s Japan which occurred serially and I always wondered why Western films never did that because it allowed a story to be told in its entirety, just episodically. But for a literary work like The Hours, I think the approach that HBO has taken to Game of Thrones and other novelistic works is the most effective. By transforming the book into a mini-series or television series, the entirety of the story can be told. The Hours does not seem to be a likely television mini-series, but I still think it would work considering what HBO is working on lately.

  4. Good job as always. For some reason that prompt about what The Hours refers to makes me think of that lyric from Rent: Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes. You could recalculate that for hours (for the musical version of The Hours?). 10/10. JB.

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