Christine [2016] – A Sensitive, Painful Character Study of a Disconnected Soul




In keeping with channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in ‘blood and guts’, and in living color, you are going to see another first – attempted suicide


A bulletin-report review:
  • There’s something powerful in observing the alienation of an individual. The concept of alienation is a phenomenon of different dimensions. An individual could be alienated from a group or nature or entire society, but perhaps the worst form is alienation from the self.
  • Few months back, I saw the emotionally affecting portrait of alienation in the distressing Czech drama I, Olga Hepnarova. Antonio Campos’ Christine (2016), although set in a different form of society, is also an observation of an individual alienation from the self (both movies based on real life incidents).
  • Both the women decided to answer their isolation by taking different end paths. Yet, these two films aren’t just about the gruesome acts; it intensely taps onto their emotions to make us feel their disappointments and frustrations.
  • Rebecca Hall gives a phenomenal performance as Christine Chubbuck, a 30 year old field reporter for a small-market TV station in Florida, in the mid-1970s. Christine is recovering from depression and lives with her mother, who constantly worries about her daughter’s possible relapse.
  • In the film’s opening shot we see Christine through a camera, creating a feeling that she is interviewing an important personality on a burning political issue. It is slowly revealed that she is sitting alone in the studio putting forth question to empty chair opposite her. The opening shot beautifully establishes her driven nature and how she is stuck in an atmosphere that dismisses her chief qualities. 

  • The station manager Mike (Tracy Letts) wants to adopt the new standards for TV news. He is interested in the tag ‘if it bleeds, it leads’. So he is not so interested in Christine’s important stories on the adversely impacting zoning board decisions. 
  • In the initial scenes, we see semblance of Christine’s normal, good life. Although she isn’t famous like the anchorman George (Michael C. Hall), she is respected by her colleagues. She drives around her yellow Volkswagen beetle, enjoying the tunes. Christine volunteers to do puppet show in the local school for differently-abled children.  
  • Gradually we see the cracks opening up. The woes of the past mix up with the existential crisis of the present. Christine reaches a point to see how she can’t compete in professional and personal life against the forces intensifying her sufferings. 
  • She has stern looks in a medium that’s embraces people exhibiting suaveness. But, Hall doesn’t just concentrate on the hard-bitten nature of Christine. She perfect balances the character’s fragility and contradictory feelings.
  • Rebecca Hall was especially amazing in the scene she goes for dinner with her heartthrob George (anchorman). Hall showcases the romantic yearning, the desire to advance her career, and also the wariness of accepting the dinner invitation. “I shut people out, even though I don’t mean it” says Christine, which perfectly makes us relate with her alienation from others and self. 

  • Majority of scenes in “Christine” hinges on exhibiting how the central character’s life veers off from her expectations. Every dedicated effort leads to disappointment and condescending reaction from others. The escalating emotional burden of all the minor insults could be closely felt. 
  •  In Christine’s downward spiral her own rage and jealousy are given equal importance like the other external factors. She is victim of herself too. So, this approach to not take an unnecessary, broader approach to place the blame fully on exploitative journalism was commendable. [The sad demise of Christine was alleged to be the inspiration for Sidney Lumet’s incendiary 1976 masterpiece “Network”, although the screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky has proven that it’s an eerie coincidence].
  • I loved how the characters of Tracy Letts and Micheal C. Hall are written. In a typical film, they could be transformed into egotistic villains. Here we see them as people aware of their limitations. They are also sad characters like Christine.  
  • Maria Drizza plays the sweet, young network camerawoman Jean Reed, who shows abundance of compassion for Christine. Her presence seems to be the point of view for movie viewers. The final scene involving her looks like an extended commentary on themes already established. But the scene kind of gives space to relate with our own alienation rather than ending on a blunt, sympathetic note. 
  • The film does demand little patience since its narrative has none of the instantly captivating dramatics or robust visual language. While the material sensitively approaches the central character, the ultimate flaw of the film is the lack of new angle to the sad incident. Visually, the study of alienation (using Bressonian techniques) in I, Olga Hepnarova had a distinct, well-designed perspective. Here it relies heavily on actors (except for few scenes).   

  • At the same time, Director Campos (and screenwriter Craigh Shilowich) doesn’t turn the film into a one-note study of the character’s abnormal psychology. The script is careful in avoiding the histrionics related to movie’s portrayal of mental illness. 
  • The fragility and desperation of the once unknown reporter Christine will strongly resonate with people like us, who ingest little doses of alienation to shield from the day-to-day indignities and dissatisfaction. The film shows how small, shifty external forces could turn one’s self as his/her worst enemy. 

★★★½


Trailer



Christine (2016) -- IMDb

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