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Miss Julie

Threat advisory: Elevated - Significant risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

It is a hot Midsummer's Eve and the old Count departs his estate to celebrate elsewhere. He leaves behind his beautiful daughter Julie (Saffron Burrows), the last in the long line of his noble family. Miss Julie is despondent after the breaking off of her engagement to be married. She dances and drinks with the servants who certainly do not accept her as one of their own. A little drunk, she finds herself alone in the kitchen with Jean (Peter Mullan), her father's footman.

Jean is a strange man - handsome and anarchistic, resentful of the class system but greedy to rise to the top. For many years, he has watched and desired the young Miss Julie. They carry on drinking and become involved in an intense and revealing conversation which draws them together as the night goes on. They hide in his room when the servants come into the kitchen, and he seduces her.

By this late hour Miss Julie has begun to show signs of her deep depression and sometimes unbalanced state of mind. Jean sees her weaknesses and exploits them, humiliating her and pushing her towards the self-destruction that she has been hinting at all evening.

Also starring Maria Doyle Kennedy as Christine. Written by Helen Cooper from August Strindberg's play Fröken Julie, directed by Mike Figgis.

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Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

The joys of hating the one you love.

August Strindberg wrote "realistic" plays about the seething underbelly of polite society, the unfulfilled dreams, the hidden desires, the failed strivings and the miasmic hypocrisy. His characters are full of the bitterness of unrequited love and lost opportunities. No-one makes it to the final act with their soul intact. Miss Julie is no exception to the rule.

Infortunately, Mike Figgis has pulled away from the delicious self-hatred of the characters and focused more on the way they interact. That's the wrong move. With August's plays you have only to put the characters on stage (screen) and let them destroy each other while you watch. It's Sylvania Waters without the glamour.

Saffron Burrows tries hard but is a little too nice. In most people's imagination the nobility is noble, but really they are just as pathetic as the poorest of peasants picking over the paddocks. Gentility is an act, a performance, and it falls away as quickly as an actor walking off the stage. Julie is as slovenly as the gossipy kitchen maids but Saffron brings too much beauty and elegance to the part. Not her fault, but she still gets the blame.

Peter Mullan, so delightfully lost in My name is Joe, is like a brick thrown into a bog in Miss Julie. Sure, he's harsh and mean and he looks like a servant, but he's nowhere near dangerous enough for Jean. Jean is a filthy opportunist who misses no chance to get what he wants and is unburdened by trifles like ethics or morality. His only constraints are what he thinks he can't get away with.

Meanwhile, Miss Julie plods along without ever finding that infalling spiral of futility and despair. August wrote plays that leave the heroes and heroines full of self-loathing and hatred, this film is not that black. It's a strong cup of coffee, but there's too much milk.

Security censorship classification

M (Medium level sex scene, medium level coarse language, low level violence)

Surveillance time

97 minutes (1:37 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 20 April 2001

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