Miss Julie

Why would you do another film version of August Strindberg’s play Miss Julie? And why would you go see it? The last version (an aversion?) I saw was an excruciating film by Mike Figgis starring Saffron Burrows and Peter Mullan. The reason to film Miss Julie may be because your name is Liv Ullmann. The Ingmar Bergman actress and sometime director has assemble, I think, a good cast. Written in 1888, Miss Julie was what Strindberg called naturalist theatre. The play takes place during one afternoon in the kitchen of a Swedish Count’s estate. Ullmann has opened the play a bit and transposed it to Ireland. While the Count is away, his daughter, Miss Julie (Jessica Chastain), has set out to seduce her father’s valet, John (Colin Farrell). The other character is the cook and John’s fiancée, Kathleen (Samantha Morton), who quietly witnesses what is happening. John resentfully follows Julie’s order to drink with him or to dance with him, but can also be very protective of her, until they go too far and have to live with the consequences. Ullmann follows the text without unnecessary stylish embellishments. Chastain paints a harsh portrait of a spoiled aristocrat, who later becomes so vulnerable and fragile. I found Colin Farrell flawless as valet John. John is a labyrinth of emotions and motivations. The character can go from shy and sweet to angry, to manipulative and uncaring. It’s all clearly articulated without ever been overstated by Farrell. And Samantha Morton is instinctively intense and nervous as Kathleen. Unless you are a theatre historian, Miss Julie does not have the same meaning for today’s film audiences as it did when it was created, and Strindberg’s intentions can, I think, be put aside for a new appreciation of this masterpiece.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Miss Julie

Directed by:
Liv Ullmann
Screenplay by:
Liv Ullmann
Based on the play by August Strindberg
Jessica Chastain
Colin Farrell
Samantha Morton
129 min.
Rated Parental Guidance

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