Based on a play written by August Strindberg in 1888, Miss Julie is directed by Liv Ullman (Faithless) – who also adapted the screenplay – and stars Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton. Though we’ve seen a few photos from the film, today brings with it the first trailer for the romantic drama, ahead of its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival next month.
The story centres on the daughter of an aristocrat (Chastain), and the relationship she develops with her father’s valet (Farrell), who is betrothed to the household cook (Morton). As she encourages the valet to seduce her, their connection is explored, along with themes of class conflict and competition.
The synopsis is as follows:
“Taking place at a large country estate in Britain over the course of one 1880s midsummer night, Miss Julie explores the brutal flirtatious power struggle between Julie and John – a young aristocratic woman and her father’s valet.
“She is all hauteur longing for abasement; he, polished but coarse. The two of them held together by mutual loathing and attraction. At turns seductive and tender, savage and bullying, their story builds inevitably to a mad, impulsive tryst. Plans made in desperation, a vision of a life together – unsure if the morning light then brings hope or hopelessness, Julie and John find their escape in an act that is as sublime and horrific as anything in Greek tragedy.
“Liv Ullman’s Miss Julie will skilfully weave this great original story of the battle between the sexes and the classes.”
The important thing to note when watching this trailer is that the source material – Strindberg’s play – was purposefully written and performed in the ‘naturalistic’ style. This theory has three guiding principles – firstly, that the piece should be a realistic study of human behaviour and psychology with properly motivated characters and a non-theatrical setting; secondly, that conflicts should be deeply meaningful; thirdly, the piece should have a simple plot, uncomplicated by superfluous story threads.
This trailer would indicate that Ullman has made this film adaptation with the intention of retaining that naturalistic style – the result of which is really quite fascinating. The performances seem to be fairly stilted – beyond what one would expect from the repressed nature associated with British society of the time. There is also little to no chemistry between the two leads detectable in this preview. However, it is the tone that is most intriguing – it is dark and foreboding with a palpable sense of teetering on the brink of emotional and psychological chaos.
A general theatrical release date for Miss Julie has yet to be set, but you can check out the trailer below: