Running Time: 119 minutes
Directed by: Antonio Campos
Featuring: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts
Michael: “If it bleeds it leads.”
I had never heard of Christine Chubbuck before I had learnt of this film, but one thing is for sure, I will never forget her name, her story and her way of doing with her life. This film is led an astonishing performance from Rebecca Hall in what has to be a career best from this British actress. Haunting is the word I would use to describe this movie , it shows the horrendous effects of depression and mental illness at its worse and is pailful to the extreme ways in which it can alter a persons perceptions of the world around them.
“Christine” (2017) is the very true story of 29-year-old news reporter Christine Chubbuck who in 1974 who took her life, live on air by shooting herself in the head, a premeditated act by someone who was sick and had no idea that help was not far away. This film is not for the faint of heart but it is an exploration into someone that took drastic action to a problem nobody talked about in the wake of the Vietnam war where returning soldiers were facing similar issues – this is something we as a society still do not deal with very well, so over thirty years later these same mistakes in dealing with mental health are still occurring.
The film takes place over a relatively short amount of time leading up to the on air suicide. We see Christine struggling at home, at work and with her health. Her mother alludes to possible mental problems in her past and we see separate instances of Christine breaking down on the surface for little or no reason. Christine really has no one she trusts to talk to and she also lacks the skills in recognising when her issues are in full effect. Like most people with personality disorders she doesn’t really know how to let people in and can be dismissive of people she does not trust or she feels lacks the intelligence in how to deal with her.
The film within its narrative begins to address a few things, that is the coming technology revolution with film starting to be replaced by videotape – of course now videotape has gone and been replaced by digital technology. The fact that film was used meant that not all of the live TV shows were recorded, and Christine’s was no different – in fact she asked for the episode to be filmed when she killed herself. The other aspect of change was within the news industry, the type of story that was being covered was changing from character pieces to more sensationalised stories – we witness a story from a rival station where someone is shot on air. This change in story seems anathema to Christine who in the film tries to fight it, but becomes unpopular with the station manger, she starts to see she must go along to get along.
This is Campos third directing gig and the difficulty in producing what is now considered a period piece is not noticeable here. The film plunges you into the world of the early 1970s in a very specific location and it has to be applauded that nothing looks out of place and the environs look excellent. Particularly the old way of shooting and editing on film as well as the costumes feels authentic.
This is a story about how someone can come undone and take drastic actions to solve their issues that they feel are not able to be overcome with time and perspective. Like most suicides this one involves many people and aspects of life that some take for granted. The closing scenes are inevitable and are difficult to watch – there is raw emotion from all Christine’s friends and her mother, which at the time must have been difficult to come to terms with what happened.It still must be very hard for all involved and really why she did it will always be a mystery.
This is an incredibly moving film and I think anyone that has friends or family that suffer from depression should see this as not only a way to try and get inside their minds but to also see what can happen when emotions and thoughts are not dealt with.
This film opens in New Zealand this year.