Critical Essay Miss Julie

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The patriarchal world of August Strindberg’s dour late-19th-century tragedy “Miss Julie” — with its rigid social hierarchy of masters and servants, and its entrenched puritanical ethos — may seem remote to Americans.

But when you remember that there are still societies in which men rule with an iron hand, and women are stoned to death for breaking convention, it doesn’t seem so distant.

Whether he was providing other artistic input at the time, the performances and plot in “Faithless” meshed, and the magnetic pull between actors remained strong.“Miss Julie” is not so fortunate.

Despite a scattering of wonderfully wrought moments, there is far more disconnection than connection.

Though he’s pledged to marry the proper cook Kathleen (Morton), he’s torn by his complicated longing for the baron’s daughter.

Juicy issues for the actors to chew on, and they do, with moments that sear like acid on skin.

But the heat that should saturate the film as betrayals mount and boundaries are broken flickers and dies many times over “Miss Julie’s” languid two-plus hours.

As the film opens, John has just returned to the country estate.

The comely mistress of the manor is hot and bothered, the homely cook is cool and collected, and the dashing valet is desired by both.

In “Miss Julie,” an Irish period piece of class divides, sexual politics and power games, things will end badly, one suspects, though the denouement still shocks.


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