Mirroring in Albert Nobbs (2011)

I watched Albert Nobbs (2011) over the weekend. The drama tells the story of Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close), a woman, who is living as a man in order to find work and live independently in nineteenth-century Ireland. Albert is a hotel waiter for a rather upscale establishment in town and has been saving up great amounts of money in hopes of one day purchasing a tobacco shop.

Hubert Page and Albert Nobbs

Hubert Page and Albert Nobbs

One day, painter Hubert Page (Janet McTeer) is hired by the hotel owner and told to room with Albert, much to Albert’s dismay. That evening, Hubert discovers Albert’s secret only to reveal the next day to Albert that she is also a woman. Albert listens entranced as Hubert tells of how she is married to a woman named Cathleen and they have a happy, prosperous life together living in their own little shop.

For Albert, Hubert’s story is the ultimate inspiration. Hubert serves as a mirror through which Albert sees the way life could be. It is after meeting Hubert that Albert’s fantasies of having a business, a wife, and a purpose are transformed into realistic possibilities. The sole act of seeing Hubert was truly formative, as Lacan would say. Albert assumes an image and is transformed.

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2 thoughts on “Mirroring in Albert Nobbs (2011)

  1. I really like the idea of Hubert being the personification of Albert’s mirror. I hope seeing her ideal-self in another person made it an accessible goal as opposed to convincing herself that she is something she is not, unlike the “Mirror Hannah” Derya discussed in her blogpost, “Lacan and Girls.”

  2. Like rhana, I too like the idea of Albert being able to see herself in someone else and realizing that happiness can be attained despite her situation.

    I have one question though: Does Hubert present herself as a man by choice or is it order to find work like Albert?

    I ask because, even though Albert gets a glimpse of the possible happiness in her future, she may also be seeing a constant need to perform a fake presentation, at least in public. For if Hubert is still dressing up as man despite her “happy and prosperous life” out of necessity to work then I question what message Albert is really receiving. Must she continue to be female in the private realm, but male in the public realm? Does the movie show any times of these realms emerging? Is there a time where the women are portrayed as women publicly in the film?

    Of course, if Hubert is portraying herself as a man because she wants to, I then no longer see a need to question the message Albert gets from this new friend.

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