I declare Nichols' adaptation of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? a masterpiece despite maybe not being 100% sold on Albee's play (the ending is especially feeble). The casting of Taylor and Burton is delicious and meta, but that would hardly count as much at all if not for the fact that they deliver combative powerhouse performances dwarfing anything else from the era. And DOP Wexler basically reinvents the wheel.
Starting off as a bittersweet Bergman-esque two-character play on midlife marital crisis, it develops later on into an even more complex, attractively symbolical discourse on topics like abortion or polyamory. Distressing the viewer, while ripe with interpretations, it feels like a much needed discussion in between cinema's Classical and New Hollywood era.
The dialogue as a conflict - a hellish fight of words, an exchange of insults, drunken arguments where truths, falsehoods and illusions are all mingled, frustrations spit on the face of others. George and Martha tear apart the illusions of bourgeoise family idyll that obviously hasn’t reached them (nor their guests Nick and Honey). Taylor and Burton act like they mean it; frantic and tragic.
This is my second favorite film of all-time, as it's filled with so many elements I personally love in a film. Faithful stage adaptation? Check! Solid script with complex characters and sharp dialogue? Double check! Outstanding performances? Quadruple check! With each viewing, I find myself in greater awe, and that is what a great film should do to you.
A friend of mine said they felt being in a relationship was like building a mental playground you navigate with someone. I think he would like this film, in which marriage is a masterfully constructed game of fiction and the acts of construction/destruction are essentially the same. We saw this for free as anti-valentine’s day programming. I disagree though and this might be one of the most romantic films I’ve seen.