Director: Liv Ullmann Norway, United Kingdom, Ireland
All the prerequisites are there for a triumphant masterpiece. The thespian performances of the three main actors are admirable, at times, awe-inspiring. Liv Ullmann wrote the screenplay and directed Strindberg’s classic work in a way which would have made her mentor Ingmar Bergman take notice. Chopin, Schubert, and Schumann enhance intense moments of both agony and ecstasy in a perfect musical score. The camera work is engaging. The close-ups magnify the tense, emotional interactions of the three gifted actors. The Irish countryside outside the manor house is captured beautifully in luscious wide shots. The final scene is a rivetingly romantic Rossetti canvas.
Ullmann transplants the obvious play-like setting from a Swedish country estate to a manor house in Ireland in 1890. It’s Midsummer’s Eve and the baron’s daughter Julie (Jessica Chastain) sets her sights on her father’s valet John (Colin Farrell) defying both traditional class boundaries and John’s pious ever present fiancée, cook Kathleen (Samantha Morton). Almost all the action takes place in the manor kitchen. Almost all the social issues of the day are turbulently tossed about: class, morality, economic inequality, religion, and sexual mores. The bitter reality is that in the 1890s a woman, even a baron’s daughter, was doomed if she strayed too far from the straight and narrow.