Miss Julie

Mike Figgis has his way with August Strindberg's tragic heroine, and turns the 1888 three-character play into a torrid and surprisingly cinematic chamber piece. It's Midsummer's Eve in northern Sweden, that time of year when the air is thick with lust and madness. As the 19th century winds to a close, an aristocratic young woman is about to take a tumble....read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Mike Figgis has his way with August Strindberg's tragic heroine, and turns the 1888 three-character play into a torrid and surprisingly cinematic chamber piece. It's Midsummer's Eve in northern Sweden, that time of year when the air is thick with lust and

madness. As the 19th century winds to a close, an aristocratic young woman is about to take a tumble. Jilted by her fiance, the lovely and slightly unhinged Miss Julie (Saffron Burrows) has been indecorously whooping it up with the servants; her father the Count is away, and his daughter is left

at the mercy of her own indiscretions. She recklessly flirts with her father's footman Jean (Peter Mullan), a ruthless social climber who disdains the other servants while resenting his "betters," even though he aspires to become one of them. Jean sees his chance for advancement in the amorous

Miss Julie, and pounces. But their quickie in the pantry only riles the jealousy of Jean's lover Christine (Maria Doyle Kennedy), the Count's cook, and precipitates Miss Julie's destruction. Strindberg's frankly sexual, single-act play continues to shock audiences a hundred years after it was

first performed, but for a completely different reason: Strindberg's revolting misogyny (he originally attributed Miss Julie's insanity to PMS and her debauched mother's feminism). Writer Helen Cooper, however, has done a fine job of rooting out the offending material without weakening

Strindberg's theme of fortune's rise and fall, as the parvenu (unbound by anything as fatuous as honor) ascends the social ladder while an outmoded and degenerate aristocracy gasps its last breath. Burrow's strong, dignified performance is a huge help, and Figgis counters the potential staginess

of the one-set play with a few dazzling cinematic effects, using Benoit Delhomme's lunging hand-held camera to intensify the growing sense of claustrophobia and opting for a daring split-screen during the naughty bits.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Mike Figgis has his way with August Strindberg's tragic heroine, and turns the 1888 three-character play into a torrid and surprisingly cinematic chamber piece. It's Midsummer's Eve in northern Sweden, that time of year when the air is thick with lust and… (more)

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