Miss Julie (Liv Ullmann, 2014) 

Jessica Chastain in a scene from Liv Ullmann's Miss Julie {Photo: WREKIN HILL ENTERTAINMENT}

Jessica Chastain in a scene from Liv Ullmann's Miss Julie {Photo: WREKIN HILL ENTERTAINMENT}

Miss Julie screens on Thursday, October 9 as the Chicago International Film Festival's opening night film. Director Liv Ulllmann and actor Colin Firth are scheduled to attend. More information can be found at the Chicago International Film Festival's website here. This is a capsule review. A full review will be published upon the film's United States theatrical release. 

Liv Ullmann’s Miss Julie is a difficult film to disregard, largely because it has so many things for it. It features Jessica Chastain at the height of her actorly capacities, strutting around Ullmann’s picture as if a demon has possessed her. But Miss Julie ultimately feels like a major chore, in what’s essentially a drawn out shouting match between actors. The film, based on August Stringberg’s 1888 play, never dusts off the cobwebs of its age, plodding along at a zombie’s pace. There’s no palpable sense of urgency to any of the histrionics on display, resulting in a picture that ultimately feels antiquated in design.

Note that this reaction stems from someone who finds the shift from the stage to film to be a particularly difficult one to accomplish, as Roman Polanski’s similar-minded gender battle in Venus in Fur failed to sway my preconceptions. Ullmann broadens the scope of the arena a bit, rendering images of a dungeon kitchen and vast garden pond with equally vivid detail. But these details are ultimately lost on actors who rampage their way through scenes at the highest octave.