Who Is Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? The Movie

The movie Who Is Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a classic. It is a story of a marriage that is crumbling and the husband and wife who try to hold onto what they have.

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Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a 1966 American film directed by Mike Nichols. The screenplay by Ernest Lehman is an adaptation of the eponymous play by Edward Albee. It stars Elizabeth Taylor as Martha, Richard Burton as George, George Segal as Nick, and Sandy Dennis as Honey.

The film was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor and Actress for Burton and Taylor. It won five awards, including Best Supporting Actress for Dennis.

The Plot

The Plot

George is a professor at a small college and his wife, Martha, is the daughter of the college president. George and Martha have been married for many years and their relationship is on the rocks. One evening, they invite a young couple, Nick and Honey, over for drinks. Things quickly spiral out of control and the evening descends into a verbal battle between George and Martha. As the night wears on, the truth about their relationship is revealed and all four characters are forced to confront their own demons.

The Characters

The movie Who Is Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? is about a married couple, George and Martha, who are both college professors. They invite another couple, Nick and Honey, over for drinks one evening, and the four of them end up spending the night together. Throughout the course of the night, the two couples drink heavily and engage in verbal battles with each other. The next morning, George and Martha’s marriage is revealed to be a sham, and it is clear that they are both deeply unhappy with each other.


The film Who Is Afraid of Virginia Woolf? tackles a number of complex themes that are relevant to its mid-20th century setting. George and Martha’s unhappy marriage is at the center of the story, and the film explores the various ways that marriages can become strained over time. The couple’s childlessness is another major theme, and the film touches on the jealousy, insecurity, and regret that can come with being unable to have children. The film also baldly addresses the issue of race in America, at a time when such discussions were starting to become more common but were still taboo in many circles.

The Setting

The story is set in the early 1960s on the campus of a small New England college. The university is not named, but it is based on Edward Albee’s own alma mater, Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. The campus is described as being “old and beautiful,” and it is clear that the institution takes great pride in its traditions and history.

The Symbolism

In the film “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, director Mike Nichols uses striking imagery and subtle symbolism to convey the inner turmoils of the characters. The film is set in the early 1960s, a time of great social change in America. Nichols uses the symbols of time, rabbits, and light and dark to explore the characters’ relationships with each other and their pasts.

Time is a significant symbol in the film. The opening scene shows George and Martha driving home from a party at which they have been arguing. They pass a sign that reads “You are now entering a world where time has no meaning.” This sets the stage for the nightmarish evening that unfolds, during which George and Martha verbally attack each other in an effort to hurt and wound. The symbol of time is also represented by the clocks in the house, which are all stopped at different times. This symbolizes the stagnation of George and Martha’s relationship. They are trapped in a grid of their own making, unable to escape the cycles of hurtful behavior they have established over the years.

Rabbits also play a significant role in the film. When we first meet Martha, she tells us that her father used to breed rabbits. This is significant because rabbits are often associated with fertility. In Martha’s case, her fertility has been denied to her; she is unable to have children. This detail takes on added significance later in the film when Martha tells George that she is pregnant. We realize that this is not possible; Martha is using this fiction as ammunition in her battle with George.

Light and dark are also important symbols in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”. The film takes place mostly at night, during a power outage. This darkness represents the emotional darkness that pervades George and Martha’s relationship. The only source of light comes from candles, which flicker and cast shadows on the characters’ faces. This gives them a menacing appearance, emphasizing their feral nature.

Mike Nichols uses these symbols to great effect in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”. He uses them to explore the depths of human relationships and to shine a light on our darkness.

The Cinematography

The film is shot in black and white, which is significant because it allows the audience to see the characters in a different light. It also makes the film noir feel more authentic. The use of lighting is important in this film, as it is used to create an atmosphere of tension and suspense. For example, when George and Martha are arguing, the room is often dimly lit, which makes their faces look more menacing.

The Music

The music in “Who Is Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is by Alex North, and it is among his best. It is moody and expressive, and it helps to set the tone for the film. The opening credits feature a beautiful rendition of “The Way We Were” by Barbra Streisand, which perfectly captures the film’s bittersweet tone.

The Reception

The film was generally well-received by critics. The Reception page on the Rotten Tomatoes website reports that 85% of reviewers gave the film a positive review, based on 39 reviews, with an average score of 8.2 out of 10. The website’s consensus reads: “A searing milestone of modern cinema, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? features outstanding performances from Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.”
On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 84 out of 100, based on 12 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”.


It is obvious that “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is not a movie for everyone. It is, however, a watershed film, and one that rewards close viewing. Its acting is superb, its dialogue arresting, and its insights into marriage brutal. It is a must-see for anyone interested in American film.

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