Author Cunningham discusses The Hours

In 2002, A Beautiful Mind captured the Oscar for Best Picture for its depiction of the emotionally troubled genius and mathematician, John Nash. In 2003, there is every indication that The Hours, a story centered around the mental and emotional conflicts of author Virginia Woolf, may follow suit.

Following a screening of The Hours Friday in Griffith Film Theater, Michael Cunningham, the author of the book from which the film was adapted, addressed the story's major themes, including the value of the moment, physical and unconventional beauty, sexuality and writing itself.

"I may be the only living novelist that is happy with the movie that got made out of his book," Cunningham said.

The movie's plot mirrors that of the novel, transitioning among the lives of three female characters: the early 20th century author Virginia Woolf, a 1970's homemaker and a contemporary book editor. Throughout the film, Cunningham uses one of Woolf's more popular novels, Mrs. Dalloway, as a device to intertwine one day in the lives of these seemingly unconnected women.

During her life, Woolf experienced several bouts of clinical depression, and was considered by many to be mentally unstable. The Hours depicts Woolf in the midst of one such period. However, according to Cunningham, the depression should not be the audience's focus.

"One of the things that I love about her was that she was subject to such profound depressions. Yet I don't know another writer who wrote so much about happiness and the simple joys of life," he said. "That's one of my main points-the miracle of the here and now."

Cunningham attributed much of the film's success to the performances of its star-studded cast. The film has been nominated for nine academy awards, and the books The Hours and Mrs. Dalloway have both rocketed to the top of bestseller lists. He emphasized the work of Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf in particular, a role which required Kidman to de-emphasize her traditional physical appeal. To this end, Kidman donned a fake nose during filming.

"She was freed of her Nicole Kidman beauty, and was released into a whole new kind of beauty," Cunningham said.

The Hours also delves into the realm of sex, specifically dealing with issues of homosexuality. Cunningham stressed the positive response he has seen to this aspect of the film.

"With the exception of one Catholic newspaper, audiences did not characterize it as a gay or lesbian film," he said. "The manner in which the film was welcomed is a sign that all the people who have ever rebelled against issues of complicated sexuality have done a good job. It's being received as what it was meant to be-a movie about human beings."

Many audiences throughout the country have been surprised to discover that a film examining the lives of three women was written by a man. During the question and answer session, one student questioned Cunningham about writing female characters from a male perspective.

"Men know a lot about women, and women a lot about men," the book's author said. "I think that's why certain books make sense to us, because even though they're not our lives, we sense truth in them."


Share and discuss “Author Cunningham discusses The Hours” on social media.