In his correspondence and conversation, Henrik Ibsen repeatedly drew attention to the meaning of the word "theater" which in Greek is "a place for seeing." One of his most daring works in this regard is Hedda Gabler. Trevor Nunn has taken the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of the play and put it on the screen. Those who are familiar with this very serious drama may find Nunn's interpretation a bit cavalier — especially the comic depiction of some of the characters. Nonetheless, for those who haven't read or seen Hedda Gabler, this movie provides the perfect occasion to explore it.

Hedda (Glenda Jackson), the proud daughter of a general, has married George Tesman (Timothy West), a timid and boring scholar. He has gone into debt setting up house for her in a mansion. She is quite unimpressed with both him and the gift. A domestic crisis ensues from the visit of writer Lovborg (Patrick Stewart), Hedda's former lover. Meanwhile, she tries to fend off the relentless affections of Judge Brach (Peter Eyre).

From this description of the play, one might envision Hedda as a warm and unusually seductive woman. Quite the contrary, she is frigid and compulsively neurotic. Loneliness and discontent have transformed her into a morbid person. Hedda's passion seeks release in the poetic ideal of a beautifully conceived and executed self-destruction.

Glenda Jackson's Hedda battles with the trolls in her heart. She is quite believable as a woman who wants more than anything else the power over other people's lives. When she is denied this right — traditionally a male reserve in her society — the results are grim. Peter Eyre is exceptionally good as her admirer whereas the rest of the cast, including Jennie Linden as a friend, are merely adequate.