Two years after the intense interpretation in “Jackie,” Natalie Portman returns to Venice as a pop star in a project that means to be an analysis of our century.
After seeing pop music in the romantic story of “A Star is Born,” it is used as a mean to tell both a personal and social evolution in “Vox Lux” by Brady Corbet, presented in competition at the Venice Film Festival.
Behind and in Front of the Camera
This is the second feature film presented in Venice (as well as second in general) for Brady Corbet, who shows his analysis of our Century through the figure of Celeste, a pop star played by Natalie Portman, whose career blooms after surviving a tragedy that drags inspiration from the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999.
From the headlines, one perceives Corbet’s personal style, dark and blunt but also capable of making the audience laugh, with a critical eye on society without ever ending up complaining just for the sake of it.
What You Need to Know (Absolutely NO SPOILERS)
The strength of this film relies upon its ability to tell the birth and growth of Celeste taking advantage of the social problems of these early years of the century. The rise of Celeste begins with a piece written after surviving a massacre perpetrated in her class. With an extended scene, full of tension and fear, the film presents one of the many cases that occurred in the United States, when a former student blindly opens the fire on the crowd.
Celeste will remain obviously marked for life, both physically and mentally, by this experience without ever being able to get rid of it. In addition, the lifestyle of a pop star is forced on her when she is very young, and her immaturity will become the primary trait of her character.
Remarkable is the performance of Natalie Portman, who plays the role of the onesie-wearing pop star affected by the usual drug problem, but also of the young mother and little sister.
Also excellent is Raffey Cassidy (“Tomorrowland,” “Dark Shadows”) who plays both the young version of Portman and her daughter, managing to bring out the dramatic sides of the character due to her traumatic experiences.
In the cast we find, among the others, Jude Law and Stacy Martin (the latter already present in Venice with the film “Amanda” in the Orizzonti section).
Who’s Got the Typewriter
“Vox Lux” was written and directed by Brady Corbet who gives the chapters a structure, completed by two acts plus a finale, that analyzes two historical moments of this Century: the early 2000s and 2017.
What You’ll Need
From the massacres in schools to the terrorist attacks, “Vox Lux” manages to touch the whole world with two cases that stand as archetypes of the unconditional violence that the world has witnessed through the years. You do not need to be an American citizen to understand the director’s point of view; you just need to be a citizen of the world to understand the evolution of Celeste.
What They Say
Brady Corbet: “Celeste is a woman who is still suffering, after 18 years of post-traumatic stress syndrome: she is not a monster but a victim of our age. We live in the age of anxiety. I think the world has never seen as many sleepless nights as in these years. My film, however, did not want to be a neorealist one, I always thought of it as a historical portrait, but having been only a few years, I wanted to give the film a fairy-tale like tone with a voiceover.
I come from Colorado, so I remember what happened in ’99 in Columbine. It is one of the events that psychologically marked me since it happened a few kilometers from my home, but I decided not to use the tragedy and to stick to the general discourse.”
Natalie Portman: “We talk about the use of weapons, but it does not want to send some kind of messages: it is a work of art and speaks to our society by shedding light on that hidden intersection between pop culture and violence. It is an incredible reflection of the historical moment we are living. I hope people will recognize some issues and will reflect first-hand on how our society confronts them.”
One Last Thing…
Music is used by Celeste as a medium to communicate the anger, fear, and desire to forget, and it then sets itself as one of the central themes in the narration. The soundtrack is divided between Celeste’s pop songs and the music that accompanies the scenes, and for both, we find a prominent figure in the music industry. To write and compose the original songs was, in fact, Sia, internationally beloved pop stars and author of some of the best hits of the recent years, while the music was composed by Scott Walker, an American songwriter with a thousand faces.
Out of 5 Lions (Venice Editon)