Friday, May 15, 2015

2015 Cannes Marathon: Miss Julie (1951 film)

(Co-Winner of the Palme d’Or w/ Miracle in Milan at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival)

Based on the play by August Strindberg, Miss Julie is the story of a count’s daughter who falls in love with one of her servants in 19th Century Sweden. Written for the screen and directed by Alf Sjoberg, the film is an exploration into class, sex, and power at a time where everyone had a role to play as a woman struggles with this role. Starring Anita Bjork and Ulf Palme. Miss Julie is an evocative yet intense drama from Alf Sjoberg.

Set in 19th Century Sweden, the film revolves a woman who just broke off her engagement with another man as she copes with her unhappiness with one of her servants whom she falls in love with. It’s a film that plays into a world where two people are in love but are forced to deal with their class and social differences as well as what is expected for them. Even as the titular character (Anita Bjork) is coping with memories of her own childhood and her late mother (Lissa Alandh) where Julie also talks to the servant Jean (Ulf Palme) who keeps her company while expressing his own feelings for her. Still, Jean knows that being with her would cause trouble as he’s already betrothed to someone else. Just as the two reflect on their own childhood, the script allows the two to bond as well as ponder the possibilities of being together. At the same time, the two cope with their own internal struggles of who they are and where they come from as it plays to the reasons into why they couldn’t be together.

Alf Sjoberg’s direction is very mesmerizing for the way he captures not just life in the middle of 19th Century countryside where many of the servants at this estate are having a celebration in the middle of this intense story. Sjoberg’s direction not only has some wide and medium shots to play into this celebration and events that goes on outside of the story but also play into a world where Julie is and how oppressed her life was as a child and as an adult. Sjoberg’s usage of tracking shots and other stylistic shots that blur the idea of past and present not only help create moments that play into Julie and Jean’s own tumultuous past but also their own sense of repression. Sjoberg’s close-ups with these backdrops that play into not just Julie and Jean’s own desires but also the world that they come from. Most notably in the former as it relates to her relationship with her late mother and the ideals that her mother tried to instill upon her which would add to Julie’s own anguish about herself and what she wants. Overall, Sjoberg creates a truly captivating and mesmerizing film about a woman’s anguish towards what she wants and what she is expected to do.

Cinematographer Goran Strindberg does amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography that manages to bring in something natural to some of the film‘s exterior settings with its ponds and creeks along with some unique lighting for some scenes set at night. Editor Lennart Wallen does excellent work with the editing with its stylish usage of transition wipes as well as inspired usage of dissolves to play into the idea of past and present. Art director Bibi Lindstrom does fantastic work with the look of the estate and its interiors to play into the world that Julie lives in. The sound work of Lars Lalin is terrific to play into the atmosphere of the celebration gathering as well as sparse moments inside the rooms of the estate. The film’s music by Dag Wiren is superb for its orchestral-based score that plays into the drama with some eerie pieces as well as some somber moments that play into Julie’s sense of torment.

The film’s brilliant cast include some notable small roles from Inger Norberg and Jan Hagerman in their respective roles as the young Julie and Jean, Kurt-Olof Sundstrom as Julie’s fiancee, Inga Gill as a servant named Viola who has feelings for Jean, Ake Claesson as a doctor in a flashback scene, Margaretha Krook as the house governess from the flashback scenes, and Max von Sydow as a farmhand who spies on Julie and Jean. Anders Henrikson is terrific as Julie’s father who adores his daughter while Lissi Alandh is fantastic as Julie’s mother in the flashback scenes who is a woman of immense darkness as she would do things that would trouble Julie as an adult.

Marta Dorff is amazing as the cook Kristin who is betrothed to Jean as she also talks to Julie as she brings a complexity to her character as someone that wants to help Julie but is very devoted to Jean whom she loves very much. Ulf Palme is excellent as Jean as a servant who has feelings for Julie as he tries to serve her while willing to talk to her about her own feelings and offering her the chance to escape from her life. Finally, there’s Anita Bjork in a radiant performance as the titular character as this woman who is in love with Jean but her social and class standing as well as her disdain towards men bring a sense of anguish into the character as it’s a very intense performance from Bjork.

Miss Julie is a remarkable film from Alf Sjoberg that features great performances from Anita Bjork and Ulf Palme. It’s a film that plays into the idea of desires in a world where two people are repressed by their own social and class backgrounds as well as what is expected from them in these roles. In the end, Miss Julie is a tremendously rich and powerful film from Alf Sjoberg.

Alf Sjoberg Films: (Den starkaste) - (They Staked Their Lives) - (Den blomstertid) - (Hem fran Babylon) - (The Heavenly Play) - (Kungajakt) - Torment (1944 film) - (Resan bort) - (Iris and the Lieutenant) - (Only a Mother) - (Barabbas (1953 film)) - (Only a Mother) - (Karin Mansdotter) - (Wild Birds) - (Last Pair Out) - (The Judge (1960 film)) - (On (1966 film)) - (The Father (1969 film))

© thevoid99 2015

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