Monday, 9 February 2015

REVIEW - MISS JULIE (LIV ULLMANN)


An austere enclosure, sealed and secretive, wherein passion flows unabated. There is little philosophical value to August Strindberg's dated text, and little enjoyment to Liv Ullmann's adaptation, but there is much artistry in what occurs when the meeting of these two authoritative figures in Scandinavian drama is enhanced by the presence of other talented artists. Mikhail Krichman shoots in pallid medium shots, an invitation to study every motion of the actors' bodies - they are vibrant and committed, but in the pursuit of mediocrity, themes and thoughts that have been mulled over too many times by too many other dramatists. The effect is that of a filmed play, the authentic location of Co. Fermanagh's Castle Coole providing only minor, fleeting aesthetic relief from the cloistered theatrics that Ullmann is dedicated to. But Krichman shoots beautifully, and his style is bereft of ostentation - he seems to work around the rosy hue of Jessica Chastain's lips or the dusky blue of her dress. Ah, Jessica Chastain. She is Miss Julie's throbbing heart, a character classically rich in detail, classically tormented, classically cliched. Whether or not you place any stock in the nature of her erraticism (though it is much more believable than John's, her functional quasi-romantic co-lead), Chastain convinces you that at least she does, or that at least she wants us to. I've never seen this side of this performer before; I may now never tire of seeing it. Samantha Morton is discarded too quickly - Strindberg's fault; Colin Farrell flounders in search of a characterisation that befits both him and his role. Accents, particularly Farrell's, are shaky, but the dramatic tension is maintained. In the end, Miss Julie can't escape the limitations of its source, but that's mainly due to Ullmann's reluctance to allow it to.