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Christine

Staring death in the face: the live television suicide of news reporter Christine Chubbuck in 1974 is the subject of this dour and psychologically complex drama, an ingenious study of emotional collapse and American obsessions

There are many ways of gaining notoriety for your suicide. German pilot Andreas Lubitz crashed his plane into a mountain taking away 150 lives with him, and forcing airlines to review security regulations. But Christine Chubbuk chose a very different route into instant post-mortem fame: she shot herself live on American television in 1974 while reading the news. No one knows how many people witnessed the shocking act firsthand from the comfort of their home.

New York filmmaker Antonio Campos, aged just 33, created another haunting tale of human depression and failure, which will probably become his greatest hit to date. In Afterschool (2008), an Internet-addicted prep-school student captures on video camera the drug overdose of two girls, while Simon Killer (2012) revolves around an American sociopath living in Paris. With Christine, Campos once again deeps dives into human dysfuntionality and hopelessness.

He succeeds to concoct a deeply gripping and human movie without being vulgar or exploitative. The films shuns thiller and horror devices in favour of a far more subtle and realistic narrative. He never uses foreknown closure of the movie as a sadistic tool in order to torture or entertain viewers. Instead the film is a empathetic and sensitive study of the psychological collapse of a human being.

Rebecca Hall’s delivery of the film protagonist is outstanding. Christine is a 29-year-old virgin with a relatively successful career in television, but also a deeply frustrating personal life. While able to deliver the news with confidence to millions of people, she is thoroughly unable to communicate and relate to people at a personal level. People find her incrustable, but in reality she insecure and deeply depressed. She craves love and attention. She had a history of suicidal tendencies and depression, but she concealed those from her employers lest she could be fired.

The photography of the film is equally impressive. Campos achieved a 1970s’ vintage feel and look by giving the images a high saturation, some sepia tones and fading. The result is that viewers are transported back in time, as if real footage of Christine’s last days had miraculously surfaced.

Christine’s self-murder is, in a way, a sadistic and revengeful act on the people that had failed her. She is giving to them the most gruesome and grotesque performance that she could conceive. She probably thought that her suffering was so intense that it could not go unnoticed. There are a lot of people out there suffering while doing their utmost to conceal it. Christine had been screaming inside for years, and sadly this was her chosen way to externalise her tormet.

This suicide is also an alarm call for a society obsessed with celebrity, media and guns. A twisted interpretation of fame and success was likely one of the leitmotifs of the suicide. The gun was both a catalyst and an intrument. The spark in Christine’s eyes the first time she holds a revolver is evident. Finally she could get the attention and affection from those surrounding her. The final and fatal act of penetration.

Christine is out in cinemas on Friday, January 27th. This piece was originally published during the BFI London Film Festival, in October 2016.

Also, don’t forget to watch the film trailer below:

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By Victor Fraga - 10-10-2016

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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