Starring Kristen Stewart, Jack O’Connell, Anthony Mackie, Yvan Attal
Directed by Benedict Andrews
Rating: *** ½ (3 and a half stars)
Allow me to make a confession. I have in recent times, become a huge fan of the mesmeric Twilight star Kristen Stewart. She has gone from strength to strength. If you have seen her in Clouds Of Sils Maria (2014), Certain Women (2016), Personal Shopper (2016) and Lizzie (2018) you would witness the evolution of one of American cinema’s most influential contemporary actresses.
In Seberg, an autobiographical recreation of the iconic French actress Jean Seberg’s ruination in America in the hands the FBI, Kristen is much more than a sum-total of the plot. She rises and shines giving to the beautiful psychologically fragile actress’s life-wreckage a smudge of sensuality and grace I have never seen in cinema about self-destructive actresses.
The film based on actual incidents in Ms Seberg’s life will leave you shaken by its powerful portrayal of the Government’s misuse of power even in a democracy, or rather, especially in a democracy where any move of protest that is anti-government is interpreted as anti-National. Not fearing the backlash Jean Seberg lends moral and financial support to the Black-power movement in the US thereby incurring the wrath of the American Government.
This is America in the 1960s and racial passions are running high. Jean Seberg jumped into the simmering racial tensions, with ruinous repercussions.
The scenes of her surveillance are so much more than the ‘thriller’ thing…Do you know that sense of barging in on something momentous that the American surveillance organizations especially the FBI specialize in? Here the sense of violated privacy is so intense we sense the actress coming apart personally and professionally. The FBI and its members are seen as woefully immoral.
If we had to describe the hounding of Jean Seberg in a sound form it would have to be a rip. From the opening sequence when we see Jean Seberg in her historic burning-on-the-stake scene in Joan Of Arc we know what the narrative feels about the celebrity woman’s politics being used to destroy her self-esteem.
At a time when the violation of an individual’s privacy has become endemic, this film comes as a timely and effective warning. Kristin Stewart makes no attempt to impersonate Jean Seberg. Her ferocious focus is on capturing the devastating ruination of a legend in the hands of powerful forces, almost like a horror film where a hapless victim is attacked by an invisible spirit.
Ms Stewart is sure to get herself an Oscar nomination next year. The other outstanding performance comes from British actor Jack O’Connell who is assigned by the FBI to trail and record Ms Seberg’s movements. His dilemma of the conscience is a throbbing presence in this riveting drama of despicable damnation.
I came away from the film with a sense of great injustice. My heart reached out to a woman who was used even by the people whose cause she upheld. As her Black hero Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie) aptly describes her, she is a woman running around with nails in her fist looking for someone to crucify her. Some people are born suckers. Tragically Ms Seberg was one of them.