“Whoever you are... I have always depended on the kindness of strangers...”
I first heard the dialogue in a play called “All about my Mother” where Ratna Pathak essays the role of Blanche DuBois. I loved the dialogue and it stayed on my mind. A Streetcar named desire, was always a Brando movie for me. Until yesterday.
The movie is set in New Orleans with Blanche boarding a Streetcar named ‘Desire’ to visit Stella, her sister. Stella DuBois, now Stella Kowalski is married to Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando). Stanley takes an instant dislike to Blanche.
Upon realizing that Blanche has ‘lost’ her family’s ancestral property, Belle Reve, Stanley takes it upon himself to prove to his wife that her sister, Blanche is phony. He believes that Blanche squandered the family money and has cheated his wife of her inheritance. Blanche, on the other hand calls the boorish Stanley an ‘ape’ and constantly berates her sister to have married a brute.
Blanche coquettishly warms up to Stanley’s friend, Mitch. It acts as the catalyst and Stanley cruelly exposes Blanche’s past.
Whatever the theme of the movie maybe, for me, it is the showdown between Stanley (Marlon Brando) and Blanche (Vivien Leigh).These two, for sure, can never be BFFs! Their conflict is epic and the tension is palpable every time Brando enters the room. It is like the ultimate battle of the sexes.
Not for once, do you feel that this is Brando’s second film. His dialogue, “Hey Stella” just echoes into the night. Even the most mundane acts, like that of changing a shirt, has it’s own distinct style. His anger is so intense that you too, cower along with Stella and Blanche when he ‘Clears the table’ and offers to clear theirs as well.
The star is Vivien Leigh albeit by a small margin. She plays Blanche with such panache and adds such complexity to the character that she makes it her own. Blanche is Leigh and Leigh is Blanche. Some of the most tender scenes are when She goes on a date with Mitch. She seems so pathetic in the scene that you want Mitch to embrace Blanche and at the same time you realize that Mitch has to run away from the trainwreck called Blanche. Her disdain for realism and a desire for magic is so incredibly portrayed. It’s only when she is faced with reality, her voice deepens and she looks bitter. The following line is so heartbreaking..
“I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic. I try to give that to people. I do misrepresent things. I don’t tell truths. I tell what ought to be truth.”
Finally, the enmity culminates in an ugly triumph. That’s when Blanche gives a weak smile and delivers that cathartic and deeply disturbing dialogue about depending upon the kindness of strangers. She kills you when she walks with the doctor. And that was when I realized that while Brando had raw, animal magnetism; Blanche too had the same magnetism, only that it was weak and broken.
P.S. I don’t know how to end it.