Miss Julie

Miss Julie


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

August Strindberg's play broke every rule of 19th century etiquette. Sex and passion were hard enough for bourgoise theatre-goers to take, but the breaking of class barriers was something entirely different.

During a Midsummer Night Ball for estate workers, Miss Julie (Saffron Burrows), the daughter of the house, wanders into the kitchen where the head footman, Jean (Peter Mullan), is tidying up.

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What follows is a bizarre seduction scene, in which he attempts to avoid her advances, believing that "when the gentry mix with the rabble" only trouble ensues.

Of course, there is more to it than that. Or, at least, there should be. Miss Julie comes across as an airhead and Jean as an ambitious peasant.

Mike Figgis shoots the film as if he has joined the Dogme school, with dodgy lighting and hand held cameras, in a vast echoing set with a beech tree garden out back that is as artificial as tinsel.

Burrows has a catwalk figure, hair all over the place and limited breadth in the thespian department. Her sole expression is startled-rabbit-caught-in-headlights.

Mullan makes sure that he stays within the scope of his experience. As a Glaswegian servant in Sweden he knows his place and looks decidedly embarrassed by the thought of hanky and panky in the same sentence.

As a result, the sex scene, like so much else in this film, is faintly ludicrous. Why the director should decide to split the screen at this point is beyond understanding.

The deed itself happens in the pantry, standing up and fully clothed. Since Burrows appears twice Mullan's height, it seem a physical impossibility.

Figgis succeeds in losing the erotic content. Sexual chemisty between Jean and Julie is null, if not dull, leaving a hole the size of Newfoundland in the plot.

Only when Maria Doyle Kennedy, as Jean's dutiful fiancee, is around does anything resembling a spark flash. Even when dressed down to look plain, this beautiful Irish actress has a personality that obliterates the likes to Burrows with a glance.

How could the man who made Leaving Las Vegas fillet Strindberg so effectively? Passion is a living organism. Watch it die.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Miss Julie packshot
A count's daughter is seduced by a footman.
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Director: Mike Figgis

Writer: Helen Cooper, based on the play by August Strindberg

Starring: Peter Mullan, Saffron Burrows, Maria Doyle Kennedy

Year: 1999

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


EIFF 2000

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