← Back to Reviews

Miss Julie

Miss Julie (Mike Figgis, 1999)

This is an intense version of Strindberg's intense play, although it's not nearly as cinematic or striking as the 1951 version. It's set in 1894 Sweden and tells how Miss Julie (Saffron Burrows), the inexperienced daughter of the lord of the manor, confronts her father's footman Jean (Peter Mullan) and spends a long night in the kitchen talking with him about class, the world and their places in it. Their talk is mostly a battle of wits and wills with both sides attempting to turn the table on the other, but eventually both souls open up to share something a bit more tender. However, Jean's sexual knowledge eventually sets him above his "better", and while his fiancee (Marie Doyle Kennedy) sleeps nearby, he attempts to seduce Miss Julie. Director Figgis stages the scenes simply, mostly all in the estate's great kitchen, but the lead performances and the striking dialogue make the entire experience extremely intimate and threateningly real. Both performances are excellent, especially Burrows who imbues Miss Julie with both arrogance and innocence and makes it easy for someone to fear for her future as the night progresses. Mullan plays the more-enigmatic Jean and finds a middle ground for him because you're never really sure if he's just being a bastard or truly cares for Miss Julie and is trapped outside his class and will never be able to rise above it. Overall, it's a well-done adaptation of a surprisingly still-modern play.