Brady Corbet's Vox Lux at Venice Film Festival

By Moira Sullivan
Natalie Portman and Raffey Cassidy

Brady Corbet has made another spectacular and engaging film after his triumph at the Venice Film Festival three years ago with The Childhood of a Leader, which won best debut film and best director awards. What I like about his work is that his films are open to assembly by the spectator and are an invitation to explore history in new ways.

The upbringing of a young boy in The Childhood of a Leader was divided into three acts with a child’s temper tantrums and horrible parents, and a finale of a future era where he is the leader of a fascist government

Vox Lux which debuted at Venice September 4 is also divided into acts - the form that Corbet presently has chosen for his films. In this film the young girl Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) is involved in a horrible school shooting, writes a song to express her feelings about It , and becomes a world famous pop singer (Natalie Portman).

Brady’s focus and platform in Childhood of a Leader is also applied to Vox Lux – namely that histories are written by people who did not necessarily live during the time they write about, or that their memory might not be accurate.

Corbet was influenced by two historical revisionist writers for this film - Robert Musil, an Austrian philosopher, and a Nobel literature prize-worthy German author - WG Sebald. These two films by Corbet are historical revisions but they are done with such skill that they are truth sayers.

This is a great premise with these two intriguing historical revisionist epics – from the early 1920’s during the signing of the peace treaty at Versailles by President Wilson and European leaders, and the rise of national socialism in Childhood of a Leader. In Vox Lux, the end of Reaganomics , the new millennium and todays corporate soul - eating pop music culture.

In one scene in the film Celeste and her sister travel to Stockholm and there is an historical chronicle of the state funded municipal music schools established by the government and church leaders in the 40s - within what the narrator of the film Wilhem Dafoe calls a country with a unique industry cluster with a success paradigm for future musicians from Abba to Robyn to The Roxettes. The voiceover on this history of pop music in Sweden asserts that this this was done to educate young people in music that were being heavily influenced by degenerate music from the US -- using found footage of African American musicians. This provocative way of looking at these schools goes against the historical facts where municipal music schools were established to give young people regardless of economic class equal access to education but is given a provocative revision.

The trajectory of Celeste’s success is a pathway familiar to audiences about emerging musicians who get record deals go on tour and wind up in an emotional car wreck later. We see several acts of Celeste’s show during her comeback and though the audience is cheering we know she is broken inside. Thirty one year old Celeste  is gratingly opposite to her younger self who prays and sings for people effected by the violence of her youth. This young Celese played by  also plays the older Celeste’s daughter she had early in her career. The way her profession begins though tragedy becomes a part of her daughter’s generation in this history of the making of a pop icon- the phenomenon Celeste. Natalie Portman is relentless in her role first appearing half way through the film. Corbet revealed in his interview with Movie Magazine that this pop music world is the same that created a reality TV show host that later became President.

© 2018 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/26/18
Movie Magazine International